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The Flaming Lips’ longevity has allowed them to cover a lot of sonic terrain over the years. Yet they’ve arguably become more adventurous with age, jeopardizing a good portion of their fan base in favor of fascinatingly bleak experiments in sound, beginning with Embryonic in 2009 and, more recently, The Terror.
Jenny Owen Youngs with Little Hurricane 8 p.m. Friday The Blue Door 2805 N. McKinley bluedoorokc.com 524-0738 $15 advance, $20 door
Once the acid-tongued author of quite perceptive and often despondent and self-hating songs, sailing’s been smoother these days for Brooklyndwelling indie singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs, especially now that her Kickstarter-started third album, An Unwavering Band of Light, finally has hit the shelves.
“I’m a lot happier and better adjusted than I was when I made the previous two records,” Youngs said.
But of course, for a true queen of melancholy, happiness causes issues.
“It’s difficult to go from being really focused on sad songs, because that’s where you are as a person, and then trying to reconcile your own happiness, or in this case, happy-sounding music,” she said.
“I feel that sort of conflict. If you make something that’s different from what you’ve always made, it’ll feel a little false. It’ll feel a little funny in your mouth before you adjust to the fact that you’re not the same person every year of your life. You change and you grow, and hopefully, your music grows with you.”
Youngs definitely knows about growth as an artist. The adult pop of 2005’s Batten the Hatches showed off a broad array of instruments and lyrical moods that culminated in her best known single, the poignant, violin-assisted ode to face-palming, “Fuck Was I.” She learned dark humor and she learned it well.
With 2009’s Transmitter Failure, she continued probing some of the bleakest corners of her songwriting topicality, creating a useful irony against the girlie sweetness of her voice.
Released last month, Unwavering Band suddenly showcases a sweet voice that isn’t so ironic. Booming drums, funky guitar and a sunny-day chorus in “Love for Long” set an optimistic tone.
“It’s the first record I’ve made where I’ve drawn more from outside of myself than inside of myself, if that makes any sense,” she said. “There’s plenty of me in all the songs, but there’s more of my own insight than, y’know, observational stuff.”
And despite wanting another standout track — the funny, neurotic “Sleep Machine” — to sound like a bummer, Youngs said she and producer Dan Romer just didn’t have it in them anymore.
“We worked on a bunch of different possible choruses, and it sounded so dark and heavy,” she said. “It took a while to figure out that the chorus needed to be a release, and we made it sound as beautiful as possible in sharp contrast to the verses.”