Album Of The Week: Embryonic

lips

It’s very seldom that I hear an album that I’m able to listen to straight through in one sitting, let alone doing that process over and over again. But this last month I’ve listened to Embryonic  by The Flaming Lips pretty much once a day, it has become my perfect study music and has just grabbed me. It mixes being very riffy, while also being really open and little repetitive, making it easy to listen to both engagingly and passively, I often will only be passively listening while working and then when a chorus like on “Worm Mountain” comes in, I’ll stop to appreciate it. It’s the perfect noise-rock album, and features some backing vocals from Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It feels like a sci-fi record to me, because I get a cinematic quality from it through just audio and it has the ability to create a visual in my mind while I listen.

The album opens on the bass droning of “Convinced Of The Hex,” a song that while repetitive is constantly doing something weird with sound effects, and the droning gives a certain electric quality to both the vocals and sounds. “The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine” follows another bass drone, but creates an uneasiness through it’s static drumline and strange harmonies, it even throws in a simulated cellphone interference sound that still makes me check my phone a month in. “Evil” eases up on the intensity of the opening to create a relaxing and beautiful keyboard-heavy song whose last minute adds in the ominous buzzing that just has a certain power to it when it first roars in. This is also the first time we hear the strange narration tracks that make this album flow together so well along with the synth droning. The album cries back to live on “Aquarius Sabotage” with a racing bass line, a sporadic guitar line and drums that fight to make sense of them all, all within a minute before fading to a strange string section and more talking.  The album gets even darker on “See The Leaves” which mixes the bass drone and intense drum line for an intense listening experience before opening to the slow and eerie second half that cranks the tremolo up a lot.

The album slows down on the lighthearted “If” where singer Wayne Coyne, sings a simple falsetto melody with a lot of cool background-noise. Next is one of my favourite tracks on the album, “Gemini Syringes,” it mixes a killer bass line, the mathematical narrating, a hanging synth line and the eargasmic sounding clicker that entices my ear with each listen. “Your Bats” seems to stop and go while always floating on either a drum line or guitar hook and roars in its last seconds before also fading to string section. “Powerless” runs on a sublime riff that starts falling near the end of its first verse before returning to usher in the chaotic and weird solo that follows it, that sounds at times like it’s playing through a radio but nevertheless has an undeniable energy to it.

“The Ego’s Last Stand” creeps in, with voices calling from all around until the drum line kicks in and it becomes a driving, epic, jam-out. It finishes on a very final sounding bass fade out. Karen O lent her talents over a phone call on the sweet “I Can Be Frog” about a girl who can be anything she wants, O adds to the song by making animal noises to play to the animals Coyne names off. The harmonies and synth on this song make it one of the album’s prettiest songs and the ending notes fall just like electric rain. The album gets to its best bass droning song on “Sagittarius Silver Announcement” with the empowering verse of “We Can Be Like They Are” and it flows perfectly into the next song. “Worm Mountain” starts on a grimey bass-riff and explodes on its chorus of ON THE MOUNTAIN where bass and drums are seemingly fighting to overpower your ears in an eruption of sound, and the cacophonous keyboard parts fit perfectly with it’s dark tone, this is the peak of the album both intensity wise and in my personal taste.

“Scorpio Sword” serves as the transition song here on the album and is as impressive as it is sonically weird. “The Impulse” is a psychedelic version of the last half of “Touch” by Daft Punk and serves as another slow pretty song on the album that’s more relaxing than heady. The intensity starts  up again with the unnerving shriek of “Silver Trembling Hands” that runs on its bass run, screams and weird vocals until it blooms into the wonderfully bright chorus singing “When she’s high” that is one of the rewarding transitions on any record I’ve heard. The voice returns for the last time on “Virgo Self-esteem Broadcast” which serves as the transition to the finale on “Watching The Planets” that becomes a tribal and destructive finally to the album calling back Karen O’s vocals and cranking the drums and bass up to their peaks and making a mantra that takes the album out in a burst of flame that feels real.

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