Two excellent albums came out today: The xx’s strong third album I See You and The Flaming Lips’ stunning Oczy Mlody.

The latter in particular is a serious early contender for my top 10 albums of the year. While I haven’t followed them closely since Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, this new album feels a lot like a spiritual successor with a healthy new dose of psychedelics. It occurred to me that the band’s combination of reverberation, tuned-down bass rhythm, angelic vocals by Wayne Coyne, and overall magical subject matter is a deep musical landscape in my memory, and listening to Oczy Mlody is like being transported back to a visceral place, and getting to explore more lands and characters. Coincidentally, I had the same experience last night watching the new Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild trailer (Legend of Zelda is my favorite game universe from childhood), and this album’s visual style is not too dissimilar from classic 2D video games. Standout songs include “How??”, “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)“, “Nigdy Nie (Never No)“, and “The Castle“, though the whole album sounds stellar. My rating: 4.5/5

I’ve enjoyed the past two xx albums (and enjoyed them live at Treasure Island) for their minimalist approach, and absolutely loved Jamie xx in his breakthrough house record, and so was very curious to see how the band would strike their balance in this third record. First I’ll note that if you really love their previous sound, you might not enjoy this as much. There’s nothing brooding here; everything is shiny and polished and sometimes actually edgy. But I personally think it’s a strong direction for the band, especially now that Jamie xx emerges as a real voice (albeit through British DJ samples). Romy and Oliver are more confident and vibrant than ever in their singing, and some of the orchestrations here are truly riveting. Overall it feels like the xx has literally doubled in substance and sound, and though it’s clearly progress I’m not sure of the dimension yet. It’s not as immediately stunning of an evolution as CHVRCHES’ sophomore album, but I suspect it will grow on me in the coming weeks. Start with “On Hold” which is the essence of their new style, and then try “Replica“, “Say Something Loving“, and “I Dare You“. My rating: 4/5

Lots of productivity this week getting my Stanford classes off to the right start. I have lots of thoughts on sustainability, politics, and philosophy, but with a good friend in town for the night from halfway across the world, and having not seen my girlfriend for two weeks, my writing will simply have to wait.


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