rating:4.5Release Date: April 1st, 2013 (UK) / April 16th, 2013 (US) The last weve (properly) heard from the Flaming Lips was 2009s brilliant yet slightly difficult-to-embrace Embryonic. Since then, theyve released a slew of songs in various and increasingly bizarre formats (gummy skulls, gummy fetus, and a human skull that contained a song that is twenty-four hours in length, for example), covered Pink Floyds The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety with a number of guests, and released a sub-par collaborative compilation album of songs featuring guests ranging from Bon Iver to Biz Markie to Nick Cave to Yoko Ono. Now they are ready to release the proper follow-up to Embryonic, which has been titled The Terror. It is their thirteenth studio album, the first in four years, and by far their darkest (hence the title). Early buzz and press releases made mentions of this being a disturbing album, and that the band had tapped into a new, dark sound that they have never previously explored. While it is true that this album, when listened to as a whole, gives off an uncomfortable and disturbing vibe, the overall sound isnt all that new. It is more of an extension of the dark, neo-psychedelia space rock that was present throughout Embryonic. On that album, the songs sounded more like fragments of a band jamming together, trying to find a new sound and direction. The songs on The Terror continue in the same vein, but are much tighter and more cohesive, and sound like a band that has become comfortable in that new sound they were searching for four years ago. There are no real standout songs here as far as singles go, aside from the bonus track/lead single Sun Blows Up Today, which is by far the most upbeat and happiest song to be found here. This is an album that must be listened to as a whole, as each of the nine songs (not counting the aforementioned bonus track) flow into each other to form a terrifying, spacey discourse on love, loss, death, isolation and hopelessness. These are topics that the Lips have covered time and time again, sure, but never have they tackled them in such a gloomy and hopeless manner as they have on The Terror. Despite the overall tone of this album, the songs and soundscapes here, especially on the thirteen-minute opus You Lust and the majestic Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die, are gorgeous as they are sinister, and have a strong hypnotic effect. The aptly named The Terror is the type of album you listen to with headphones while lying in the dark, pondering lifes mysteries. It is also one of the best and most darkly-beautiful albums to be found in the Flaming Lips' extensive discography, and one of the best albums of this year so far.