On their first two longplayers, Los Angelean syrupy pop/country romantics Beachwood Sparks essentially came across as a kinda more-credible, less-smarmy take on the same trick turned by the Pernice Brothers: gazing back in rose-colored hindsight at a golden age that they believe yielded a golden glow. Such is their nostalgia that their music makes it seem like they believe the past bore a gentler kind of life. Of course, while Buffalo Springfield or The Byrds or Pearls Before Swine sound soft and cuddly in the here and now, the times that birthed their hazy country/pop/psych were hardly that; and, on Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks toss a little sand in their Vaseline-lensed cast-backwards gaze, getting wantonly psychedelic as they do something akin to dropping a tab in their musical iron cup of wine. Housed in lurid, cartoonish acid-trip artwork, their latest EP is a very obvious example of a band using a gap-filling between-album release to stretch their bloody wings a little. The set's six songs certainly aren't afraid to wander into rambling passages, or to shape and shift with the kind of lurching key/tempo changes that don't suit pop songs. L.A. electro-cat Dntel repays the favor to BS's Chris Gunst, who sang on his Life Is Full of Possibilities album, by bringing "additional sounds" to the whole record, his work being lots of tiny details that incrementally add up as the set marches on. Subtle electro-tones and washed-out guitars and crackles of static and approximated theremin and such all stir the songs with all kinds of vivid colors. Mia Doi Todd, who also sang on the Dntel record, comes aboard for the set's centerpiece, a seven-minute showstopper called "Ponce de Leon Blues," in which her coal-miner's-daughter vocals ring out in the most melancholy duet; the song spins in languid circles as it drifts down a wandering river, its floating-on-back trying its soft-psych best to feel like floating-in-space. The overall effect occasionally leads the band into territories that could be compared to either the Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev. But unlike those two vastly overrated bands, with this disc Beachwood Sparks never grab at easy answers, and aren't egotistical enough to believe that the mild experimentation on this set is anything close to experimental. Instead, they clear their heads and let the current of their songs take them where it will. And the result is magnificent, and unexpectedly so.