Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Mynabirds: “Lovers Know” (2015) CD Review

The Mynabirds are a wonderful indie pop band founded by singer, songwriter, pianist Laura Burhenn a little more than five years ago. (You might also know Laura Burhenn from her work with Bright Eyes and The Postal Service.) The Mynabirds’ new CD, Lovers Know, is their third full-length album, and it features all original material, with some excellent lyrics. For example, check out these lines from “Say Something”: “I put our records on/And played every song/Don’t you remember how we got here?/But now the needle skips/My favorite words.” These songs focus on relationships, love and longing, led by Laura Burhenn’s impressive and moving vocals.

The CD opens with “All My Heart,” a song with a gorgeous and powerful chorus. The line “When I love, I love with all my heart” is so simply stated that you know it to be true.  Laura then sings, “When it’s over, this hole here might tear me apart,” but then goes back to focus on the positive “When I love, I love with all my heart.” And I love that, that the focus is on the positive, and the end gets only a brief mention, but is not dwelled upon. It’s a song of passion without illusions or regrets. This is such a great song, and it digs its claws into you, and will likely stay with you. (It’s one I’ve been listening to over and over.)

The Mynbirds follow that with “Believer,” which feels loosely linked to the first song by its opening lines, “This hole/So tired of filling up.” The character of this song doesn’t seem to have the strength or fortitude of that of “All My Heart.” She sings, “I don’t know what I’m doing/I don’t know what to say/When you ask what’s in my/Heart these days.” But it is the next lines that really hit hard: “You say you’re a believer/But you don’t have any faith/Not even in me.”

“Semantics” is the first track I heard from this album, and is the song that turned me on to The Mynabirds. It’s a wonderful, pretty pop song, with some gorgeous vocals that at the same time feel friendly. It’s a relationship song, and it’s interesting because you don’t know which way things will go with this couple, but you certainly want to share her optimism. She sounds positive even as she recounts what her lover told her: “But in the light of a thousand suns,/We’ll still dry up.” In fact, she begins the song be singing, “You say you always feel half empty/And I’m just a little fool.” The song is actually a conversation between the two, as she addresses him directly rather than bringing the listeners in as confidants or something. It’s almost like we’re overhearing a private moment between long-time lovers. “You know I always feel half crazy/And I’m still here.”

“Velveteen” is a song that gets right on top of me, from its opening a cappella moment to its haunting vibe and emotional and intriguing vocal performance, with pained and desperate lyrics. The way it reaches out (to a lover, to the listener), asking “Am I real yet?” The question, in the way it’s asked and repeated, makes us feel like that the person asking really needs an answer, and you might find yourself wanting to respond. And what response can there be to that, or to a question like, “Can you put me back, put me back/Put me back, right back?” This is a truly engaging song and performance.

“Shake Your Head Yes” is another of my favorites. There is something kind of surprisingly playful here, even as Laura sings lines like, “You ask me how I am/I’m always such a mess/Hiding a heart attack/Under a party dress/Shake your head yes.” And check out these lines: “Wear your mistakes/Like they’re your greatest disguise/And if it tears you apart, it’s fine.” Have I mentioned how great the lyrics of this CD are?

Another highlight of this album is “Hanged Man,” mainly because of Laura’s vocal performance. This song slowly creeps up on you and takes hold. It’s beautiful and haunting, even stunning at moments. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “August looked up, said,/‘September will keep you/Good company/You must treat her with kindness/Even though you may miss me.’/If not for the dawn,/Oh, if not for what’s gone/We’d have nothing/And as sure as the sun/Oh, as sure as it comes/Is its going.”

CD Track List
  1. All My Heart
  2. Believer
  3. Semantics
  4. Say Something
  5. Orion
  6. Velveteen
  7. Shake Your Head Yes
  8. Wildfire
  9. Omaha
  10. One Foot
  11. Hanged Man
  12. Last Time
Lovers Know is scheduled to be released on both CD and vinyl on August 7, 2015 through Saddle Creek. 

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