Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keen Melodic Sense

The Bird
and the
Bee, Ray
Guns Are
Not Just
the Fut-
ure, Blue

Worry not. Though Los Angeles duo Inara George and Greg Kurstin offer a more expansive, experimental version of their patented lounge-pop on Ray Guns Are Not Just the Fut-
ure, their keen melodic sense remains fully intact.

While their first long-player took cues from bossa nova and sunshine pop, their second recalls John Barry's James Bond themes (with Inara sounding more like Phoebe Snow than Shir-
ley Bassey), the softer side of glam-rock (see handclap-driven opener "Fanfare"), and Air's Moon Safari—with dance beats.

While Air and Stereolab are also often described as retro-futuris-
tic, the Bird and the Bee distinguish themselves from those European outfits, even if they're following a parallel formula.

The reasons are simple: 1) Inara's bell-clear voice, 2) the absence of any Krautrock influence, and 3) those aforementioned beats, and Ray Guns is a dance record—a particularly atmospheric one, but a dance record, nonetheless, as the single "Polite Dance Song" indicates. That doesn't mean the whole thing moves quick-
ly, just that it's designed for dancing of some kind. The title track, for instance, is perfectly engineered for a waltz or a foxtrot.

As with their debut, there's a cuteness here that more hardened listeners might find irritating, but Annie and Lily Allen fans will probably feel otherwise, and producer/multi-instrumentalist Kurstin helped to construct Allen's stunning Alright, Still, so those comparisons aren't as off-base as they might seem.

Like those ladies, George has a sweet voice, but there's a con-
trasting spiciness to her lyrics, as in 2006's "Fucking Boyfriend."
If there's nothing as angry on this disc, George continues to question—rather than to celebrate—male-female relations.

In "You're a Cad," for instance, she laments her tanglings with a "cad and a bounder," who she also brands a "dog and a cheat" and a "rascal and a rogue." And irresistible for all that. The word de-
scribes Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, too: irresistible.

Click here for my review of 2006's The Bird and the Bee

Endnote: I'll admit it, I also use the phrase "keen melodic sen-
se" in my Amazon review of Frightened Rabbit's Midnight Or-
gan Fight
. Herewith, I plan to retire it...for the time being.

Earlier this year, for KEXP, I wrote the following about the 20-
08 edition of Air's Moon Safari: "10th anniversary of Air’s doub-
le-platinum debut. The first disc features the original record, the second consists of demos, remixes, and radio sessions. There's also a third DVD featuring a documentary and videos, all direct-
ed by Mike Mills of Thumbsucker/Butter 08 fame." For more information about the Bird and the Bee, please click
here or here. Image from Bumpershine.com.


Anonymous said...

It's been too long since I visited your site, Kathy. Since I don't run into you so much anymore, I need to do this more. I'm sampling tracks from this "The Bird and the Bee" album and it's a delight.

kathy fennessy said...

Thanks for writing, Sean. I'm glad you're enjoying the new album. Feel free to let me know if you'd like to borrow the first--and Happy New Year!