The Bird and the Bee: The Bird and the Bee

One of these songs might be your next "Fidelity" or "True Affection" -- here comes the Bird and the Bee.

The Bird and the Bee

The Bird and the Bee

Label: Metro Blue
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

It seems it's the season for female-led boy-girl duos. With the Blow currently burning up indie kids' iPods like this month's Regina Spektor, you've got to predict a replacement for "True Affection" (or for you maybe it's "Parentheses"?) pretty soon. The tune could just be courtesy of the Bird and the Bee. Oh, see -- the band's MySpace profile just ticked over 100,000 views as I'm writing this.

Inara George, the daughter of a '70s Southern rock musician, is a fan of those old jazz standards. So's Greg Kurstin, and that's how they met, apparently. On George's solo work (she released an album last year called All Rise) this jazz influence is a lot stronger than on the Bird and the Bee's debut. Kurstin, though, has some pretty impressive chops behind him too, like studying jazz piano with Mingus's pianist and writing/producing for the Flaming Lips and even Lily Allen. Together, with George responsible for the vocal melodies and Kursting the harmonies and instrumentals, the Bird and the Bee have created a sweet electronica-dusted pop sound with an easy jazz basis but a complex musicality.

This is another record that took its time to grow on me. At first dismissed as indie middle-of-the-roaders with a bit of blog attention, in the vein of Imogen Heap or Au Revoir Simone or even a watered-down Broadcast, the group's tunes are quiet, but catchy in the way that repeat listens reinforce rather than wear out. And joined by a few instrumentalists for their live shows in the CMJ festival earlier this month, the band gained a respectable honorable mention. On record not so much wet-dream as dream-pop, George's potentially sultry, breathy voice is turned to introspection and cute observation rather than seduction. Lines like "It's so stupid and perfect and stupid and perfect... I hate you, I want you, I hate you, I hate you" could be about sex, sure, but equally point to youth's capriciousness, deliciously.

But the "obsessive web of influences" is right on. It's as if the group has set out to make as diverse a record as possible, and in the process has assimilated sounds from all over the jazz-and-pop spectrum. The funny thing is, just about all the songs emerge sounding interesting in an unexpected way, and they all emerge sounding quite adequately like a Bird and the Bee song. From the classic jazz/rhythmless recitative of "Bird and the Bees", to the video game-whirl of "I Hate Camera" that was done earlier this year by Brooklyn group Au Revoir Simone, to flecks of Lily Allen on "Because" (or is that just me?), female singer-songwriters and indie-electronica form an impossible-to-ignore backdrop for these songs.

At their best, though, the Bird and the Bee is able to overcome simple imitation, allowing quirks of individual personality to shine through. "Again & Again" and "F-cking Boyfriend", though they appeared on the band's previous teaser EP, are still standout tracks, the former full of West Coast sunshine, cloaked in an unexpectedly jumping melody and acoustic guitar strums, and the latter with its rising and rising loop (and unexpected swear). Ethereal closer "Spark" farewells the album fondly and sweetly, its Baroque synths wandering upwards into never-ending optimism. Throughout, the Bird and the Bee rely on the drum machine as an integral part of their sound; its steady swishes become as familiar as George's breathy voice.

The Bird and the Bee deserves the two or three spins it takes to become a fast favourite. The first time, these songs sound like catchy pop (and little more); the second, uncannily familiar; the third, they come together to form an endearingly confluent and pleasingly unconventional electronic pop record. Give these guys a listen.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.