The Mynabirds: Lovers Know

The Mynabirds Lovers Know trades rhetoric for trite ruminations.
The Mynabirds
Lovers Know
Saddle Creek

With one line, “I keep changing my additions up,” singer Laura Burhenn announces yet another new direction for her recording project the Mynabirds on “Believer”. Going all pop on her latest release, Lovers Know, Burhenn has spit shined the danceable rhythms and militaristic garage stomp of 2012’s politically-charged Generals, bringing internalized emotion to the fore.

Following her 2010 Mynabirds debut, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, a soulful take on singer/songwriter fare that ranged from Laurel Canyon cool to Fiona Apple, the politically-charged Generals uprooted Woody Guthrie and his call to arms amidst hiccuping Bo Diddley beats befitting Missy Elliott. On Lovers Know, Burhenn’s current muses seem to be Perfume Genius and the Casio-driven minimalism of Erasure on this divergent collection of songs penned from the heart.

Forever toying with pop conventions, Burhenn’s voice drove the honest yearnings of What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood while her didactic lyrics were the focus of Generals. On Lovers Know, that voice is transformed by studio effects, adding sun glare to poptimististic songs such as “Semantics” and the star-crossed “Orion” while obscuring it on the bleating minimalism of “Shake Your Head Yes” with its vocal fry, which stands in stark contrast to the staccato delivery of Generals‘ “Wolf Mother” and “Disarm”.

Singing, “I don’t want half of anything”, one can’t fault Burhenn for such a whole-hearted foray into electro-pop. With multiple songs from Generals given the remix treatment, Burhenn has proven she is an artist unafraid of taking chances. Her inherent pop leanings always evident but reigned in by producer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift, on Lovers Know, producer Bradley Hanan Carter lets Burhenn oversell the confessional nature of the album on opener “All My Heart”, setting her adrift on the Jack Kerouac-inspired anthem “Wildfire” and the domesticated needing of “Omaha”. To hear one who once quoted Jean Paul Sartre utter lines such as “If we can still be wild / Then shake your head yes”, is akin to betrayal by a feral prophet now trucking in base human emotion.

Save for the sublime poetry of “Hanged Man” with its rare moment of Burhenn’s natural voice howling through, Lovers Know trades rhetoric for trite ruminations. Asking “Am I real yet?” on the sheet metal storm of “Velveteen”, the answer is no. While there is much to relish on Lovers Know, the studio-driven nature of the album feels sterile and rote, shoehorning Burhenn’s wide worldview into narrow refrains and clichéd choruses, thus caging a once wild voice.

RATING 6 / 10
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