Though its title is Polish for "the eyes of the young," the Flaming Lips' state of mind on their Oczy Mlody album isn't exactly naive. As they move on from the crises that inspired The Terror, they bridge the abrasive sound that started on 2009's Embryonic and the try-anything whimsy of their collaboration with Miley Cyrus in ways that are surprisingly complex. Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and company soften some of The Terror's rough edges in favor of a more eclectic, melodic sound that spans hip-hop, prog, and orchestral elements, sometimes in the course of a single song: "Nigdy Nie (Never Know)"'s wordless sighs and electro beats evoke the unlikely duo of Syd Barrett and A$AP Rocky that Coyne used to describe the album before its release. Meanwhile, the title track begins the album with a synth-driven sense of wonder that conveys seeing things from a new -- or renewed -- perspective. Many of these visions are nearly as bleak as The Terror. Each time Coyne sings the titular chorus on "How??," he sounds less convinced he'll find an answer; he's overpowered by a crest of strings, harp, and woodwinds on "Galaxy I Sink"; and his contemplation of the circle of life becomes a vicious cycle that destroys his "fragile dream of how the world is full of love" on "Almost Home." None of these songs, however, are quite as unsettling as "There Should Be Unicorns," an apocalyptic love-in filled with imagery so outrageous that it could be parodic if the surrounding droning electronics weren't so ominous.
At times like these, Oczy Mlody feels like a collection of fairy tales for adults, full of psychedelically heightened emotions that the band deploys with shamanic skill. Towering drums and duelling synths add to the feeling that the band co-wrote "One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill," a tale of destruction and redemption, with the Brothers Grimm. Similarly, harp and strings sprinkle some fairy dust on "Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes"' meditations on mortality, while the beguiling melodies of "Sunrise" and "The Castle" sweeten their tales of loss. These songs recall the band's work with Cyrus, so it's not entirely surprising when she shows up on "We a Family," where she might as well be the voice of the young. Though the song's happy ending feels a bit tacked-on compared to the of rest of Oczy Mlody's trippy melancholy, its meaning is clear: finding hope isn't easy, but seen the right way, it can be an adventure.