The Flaming Lips' Record Store Day full-length, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, is a subversive take on the nature of musical collaborations in 2012. Instead of exploiting famous friends like Ke$ha, Bon Iver and Coldplay's Chris Martin for the sake of chart-friendliness (as is standard practice in the industry), the Lips push their poppy friends into noisy, borderline inaccessible territory (and collaborators like Lightning Bolt, Neon Indian, Yoko Ono and Nick Cave are pushed into even more experimental territory than usual). It's a stunning album that's not lacking in tunes, but that doesn't want to make them easy for listeners, either.
The biggest case in point is the album's centerpiece, this 10-minute cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (as popularized by Roberta Flack in 1972). Harnessing the cosmic imagery of the lyrics that is typically ignored in its cover versions ("The first time ever I saw your face / I thought the sun rose in your eyes / And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave / To the dark and the empty skies, my love"), Wayne Coyne & co., craft a suspended galaxy of noise and deliberate chord changes. Erykah Badu floats in it, growing obscured as the verses unfurl. What was already a devastating song (do not listen if you are going through a breakup...or actually, do and fucking wallow) now obliterates. This is the most perfect recording I've heard all year. An added bonus is that it does wonders in reclaiming a classic from those damn ASPCA commercials and Glee.