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The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

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During a complicated and uneven history spanning nearly 20 years, Oklahoma City's The Flaming Lips has moved ever closer to pure sonic overload. The group's last few projects delved into literal Surround Sound—listening to 1997's wonderful Zaireeka entails playing four discs at once—and, in the case of 1999's essential The Soft Bulletin, a veritable orgy of multi-tracked celestial beauty. It's reasonable to expect Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots to take a step back from its predecessor's labor-intensive grandeur, but bandleader Wayne Coyne finds a way to top himself anyway: by making songs that resonate on an even more directly personal level. For the last few years, The Flaming Lips' music has been an audiophile's dream, but it could also be somewhat emotionally inert, taking off on charmingly oddball flights of fancy that live up to titles like "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now." On Yoshimi, Coyne touches nerves that run deeper than the ears, dispensing thoughtful notions about life and death on tracks like "All We Have Is Now" and the gorgeous, deceptively simple single "Do You Realize?" Although the album's battle between a woman named Yoshimi and an army of "evil-natured robots" plays out in a meandering two-part epic, the tracks somehow fit naturally amid the symphonic flourishes and the several tender ballads about appreciating life and savoring its beauty. Endlessly listenable and almost invariably mesmerizing, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots piles on layers of production prowess without drowning out the beat of its human, humane heart.