aNewDomain — From the first track, neo-pop duo The Bird and the Bee is able to keep its new album, “Recreational Love,” from feeling like something you’ve heard before. That’s no small feat for an act labeled “electropop,” in a saturated music world where you can get a million songs in any key.
Starting out with the first song, “Young and Dumb,” singer Inara George adds some unarticulated high notes to her austere vocals, to keep things interesting, along with a bit of muted xylophone and a fair amount of repetition.
Then it’s on to the title track, “Recreational Love,” where you hear more of the synth beats, bright keys and ambient sounds that support the rest of the album.
Throughout the successive tracks, Greg Kurstin, the other half of the band, plays around with different vocal registers, a few two-note motifs, and in some spots, a barrage of words, attended by various loops, samples and 80s-style synth arpeggios.
A good number of tracks on this new album are confessional. The messages are from one lover, partner or spouse to another, with the word “you” making frequent appearances. And there’s a lot of invocations of action verbs, like: love me, kiss me, take me home, film me, don’t run away from me. But underneath the imperative and me-to-you style, other themes run deeply. In “Please Take Me Home,” the singer says he is “lost on an island with some joker who just jokes incessantly /And some singer won’t stop singing, is it her or is it?”
And: “I don’t even know if I’d even know the way without you now … ” sings George. “Will you take me? / Please / Will you take me? / There’s too much to say but you’ll say that I am much too tired tonight / Will you take me? / Home … ”
Elsewhere on the album, the singer and unseen partner roles take other twists, as in “Doctor,” where Inara George renovates the age-old trope we’ve heard from songs like Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Lovin’ You.”
Thankfully, she is a bit more subtle and intelligent than Palmer’s version as she sings:
“Doctor … Kiss me again … You’re the only one who tries / You really look into my eyes … ”
After going through all of this relationship work, plus asking “Will You Dance?” on a track of the same name, and discussing the finer points of running on “Runaway” – (“You’re so delicious / I wish every day was Sadie Hawkins day), Inara brings it home for real with “Lovey Dovey.” This ostensibly soft track nevertheless manages to seem a little ominous:
“Come to me my only love / Let’s close up the house for the night / And keep the rest outside / Come to me my little dove / I fear that the cat snuck inside / But I know we’ll both survive … ”
City of Angels
Along with all of what Inara George’s protagonist has to say to her paramour, there are other threads on the album – for example, there’s a sense of place, compelling in the track “Los Angeles” that doesn’t intend to hide the meaning of the lyric.
“Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” sings George, “Don’t listen to a thing they say / They don’t need you in the same way … ”
The rest of the lyric alternates between the punishly perfect “la-la-la-la L.A.” and some other stuff that would probably make any East Coast prude even more full of contempt for the “LA lifestyle.” But a song is more than just words. And this song — and the whole album, really — is a product of a city known for its cosmopolitan glamour, big-money style and intoxicating rays of sun. To a discrete tinkling of whatever Kurstin brought into the studio, this track creates a soundscape that really feels like driving around San Fernando, Topanga or other LA outposts with the top down.
I highly recommend this album.
For aNewDomain, I’m Justin Stolzfus.
Here’s a video where you can check out the title track from Bird and the Bee’s “Recreational Love.” Enjoy!
Image credits: By SVTCobra (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons