Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr If the strong art rock of 2009’s Between My Head and the Sky wasn’t sufficient indication that Yoko Ono navigated the early 21st century in a music landscape that had finally caught up to her, 2013’s Take Me to the Land of Hell marked definitive proof that the artist was as vibrant and vital as she’d ever been. Recorded just before the artist’s 80th birthday, the album explodes with youthful jouissance, with Ono crisscrossing genres and moods while remaining firmly rooted in pop. Indeed, there’s a strong case to be made that only Season of Glass matches it in immediate, earworm appeal. The sound of jungle birds cawing that opens “Moonbeams” suggests that more of Ono’s noise experiments might be on the way, only for the track to immediately shift into sparkling New Age, all warm synthesizer shimmer and wind chimes. Ono’s deadpan delivery of lines like “In winter the snow protected us/ Covering our pain/ Now I hear ice crackin / Slowly in my brain”” that are as tranquil as they are tense. Gradually, a gurgle of bass and a coalescing drumbeat manifest from deep in the mix as the synths focus up into space disco cascades before a squall of guitar erupts over the entire thing. In mere minutes, the track traverses ambient, electronic disco and space rock. Possibly the most thrilling album opener of Ono’s career, “Moonbeams” shows off the stylistic defiance, lyrical poetry and, perhaps most importantly, ecstatic atmosphere of the record to come. Part of this scattershot jubilance could be attributed to the staggering number of guest musicians who appear on the record, ranging from Questlove to the Beastie Boys to Japanese pop artist Cornelius. The rotating lineup makes for tracks that jut off in strange directions. Check “Tabetai,” which starts as stomping rock before collapsing into a whistling breakdown before eventually blossoming into a chiming collage of guitars that buzz out of step with each other. “There’s No Goodbye Between Us,” meanwhile, is Sgt. Pepper’s-esque sunshine psychedelia that liltingly affirms the timelessness of a relationship, whether platonic or romantic. “7th Floor” is pure art-funk, with Prince-like synths blurting through the center of a mix that grumbles with bass while shoving guitars and drums off to the sides. As a lyricist, Ono has always used concrete, even banal phrases arranged in evocatively sapphic fragments, and that’s true of the work here as well. “Little Boy Blue Your Daddy’s Gone” is another in Ono’s long line of Lennon eulogies, repeating lines from a single stanza like “You make your life/ Through your strife” in a quiet, numbed tone before a parting warble speaks to Ono’s lingering sorrow over her husband’s death. But the album is also filled with fleshed out songwriting, much of it storytelling. “Cheshire Cat Cry” slinks around on a rubbery funk bassline punctuated by soaring guitars and oscillating sheets of Moog noise as Ono calls out systemic violence with the scornful “We the expendable people of the United States/ Hold these dreams to be self-destructive.” And “Leaving Tim,” with its sprightly lounge piano and lethargic upright bass backgrounding a sarcastic story of leaving a boyfriend, sounds like nothing less than Ono matching Randy Newman at his own deceptively lacerating game. That retro jazz is then immediately contrasted with the album’s last true song, “Shine, Shine,” which rides a massive fuzz bassline and brittle post-punk guitar in what sounds like a classic DFA single. Ono isn’t chasing relevance with these juxtapositions; instead, she is merely playing with the various ideas that interest her. Released amid the post-streaming collapse of genre divisions of the 2010s, Take Me to the Land of Hell is a reminder that artists like Ono were freely combining the obscure and mainstream long before the content smorgasbord of the Internet exposed artists to rabbit holes of contradictory sounds. Released to some of the warmest reviews of Ono’s career, the album stood comfortably with the most cutting edge indie and art albums of its time, sounding as much like the work of a dynamic upstart as the octogenarian who’d sown the seeds for the scene decades earlier.