The connections between the Bird and the Bee’s new album, Recreational Love, and the music of Hall & Oates are not surprising. After all, the Bird and the Bee’s last album was 2010’s The Master’s Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. But the Los Angeles’ based artists, Inara George and Greg Kurstin, do more than pay homage to the Philadelphia band’s sound here. Recreational Love reveals the subtle charm and sly sophistication of the style through George and Kurstin’s creative talents. It makes you gaze at shoes and tap your feet at the same time.
The most direct example of this can be found in the title track, which serves as a reply to the narrator of Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That”. That individual offers his body but not his soul to his sexual partner. George’s female vocals coo in response that there is no such thing as just “Recreational Love”. Their sexual relationship indicates a deep love for each other, and he knows it. She does not buy his denials and expresses this in a clearly erotic manner.
Kurstin does a brilliant job of capturing the Hall & Oates ethos through the use of synthesizers and effects, without copying or cloying. The mellow pace on tracks like “Runaway”, “We’re Coming Your Way”, and “Lovey Dovey” suggests the importance of restraint and allows George to shine without having to stretch. That’s kind of the point. Life and love should be laid back, but that doesn’t make it any less intense. Desire, connection, time passing—these topics matter.
The duo also can be funny. Sometimes the lyrics get purposely wry. George sings of her home town, “Stop asking me where I come from / I’m from L.A. la-la-la-la / living in L.A.” Her voice has a pleasant lilt that insists the much maligned city has much going for it. Unlike Randy Newman’s ironic “I Love L.A.”, the Bird and the Bee sincerely mean it and show it with a smile.
Their sense of humor can get a bit strange and playful in a way the recalls the sardonic Hall & Oates’ of “Maneater”. George repeatedly croons of sex (“Fill me. Fill me. Fill me. / Fill me. Fill me. Fill me. / Fill me. Fill me. Fill me / with all the love I ever need “) and death (“Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. / Kill me./ Kill me. Kill me. / Kill me. / Kill me. Kill me / I would kill myself to please you”) on “Please Take Me Home” as if one’s base emotions are merely blasé. The Bird and the Bee imply this pose is only a cover for the astonishing reality of one’s inner life. The singer is no rich bitch, although she may be on the surface.
Kurstin’s catchy synth pop of Recreational Love and George’s warm vocals function to relax the listener. The music is often soft and expansive; the lyrics sung melodiously. Don’t let the surface gloss fool you. The deeper experience is glossy, too. What you hear is what you hear, and if you pay attention you will be splendidly rewarding.
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