Under Review: The Mynabirds – What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood

You would think that, after being done over and over again, the musical reinvention’s novelty would wear off.  Yet musicians continue to forge new careers for themselves, performing in a different style (and sometimes under a different name).  Recently, we’ve had Grand Ole Party’s Kristin Gundred reemerging as Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls and former Hail Social leader Dayve Hawk essentially becoming the dreamy electronica project Memory Tapes.  The latest to join this chameleon club is Laura Burhenn, formerly of D.C.-based Georgie James.  With Georgie James disbanded, Burhenn formed The Mynabirds to finally give life to her years’ worth of solo material.  Unlike the sprightly, New Pornographers-ish pop of Burhenn’s previous band, The Mynabirds make much more balladic music, with a production style that evokes classic female singer-songwriters of the 1960s.  What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood, The Mynabirds full-length debut, may be on Saddle Creek Records, but it doesn’t adhere to the folksy twang of some of the label’s best-known releases.  Instead, the album is a thrilling pairing of Burhenn’s soulful voice and a string- and brass-backed rock combo.  The album opens with “What We Gained In The Fire,” which presents a mournful yet rhythmic theme that is one of the album’s two main modes.  The other follows right behind in “Let The Record Go,” a more brooding tone with Burhenn’s voice intoning much deeper; more like Chan Marshall or Polly Jean Harvey than Carole King or Bonnie BramlettWhat We Lose In The Fire’s more upbeat songs feature a ethereal backing chorus, promoting a slightly gospel feel on “Numbers Don’t Lie” and “LA Rain.”  That spiritual motif is even present on the album’s sepia-toned cover, depicting Burhenn alone in a chapel.  The image of a sad, pretty girl crying her heart out in song is an age-old one that, like the musical reinvention, lasts through generations.  Burhenn might be travelling on well-trodden ground with The Mynabirds, but What We Lose In The Fire spares no compositional expense in the name of trying to be ‘vintage.’  What we’ve got here is an instantly timeless set of songs that will sound even better playing out of a lonely old Rock-Ola  in some midnight saloon, twenty or so years from now.

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~ by E. on April 28, 2010.

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