The Mynabirds: Be Here Now

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The mix of force and sensitivity makes it a valuable statement in a difficult time.

The Mynabirds

Be Here Now

Label: Saddle Creek
US Release Date: 2017-08-25
UK Release Date: 2017-08-25

Laura Burhenn, the force behind the Mynabirds, has turned political before (on 2012's Generals), but her new album feels different. Be Here Now came together in just a couple weeks of recording after this year's presidential inauguration and the next day's Women's March in Washington, DC. Burhenn had plenty to say, and she got it down quickly. This summer, the album came out as a series of EPs before being properly collected in its full format. While the scattershot feel of the release diminishes its effectiveness a bit, the mix of force and sensitivity makes it a valuable statement in a difficult time.

Listening in central Virginia during mid-August 2017 will naturally draw “Golden Age” to the center of the experience (although, to be fair, listening in mid-July brought it forward as a similar highlight). The steady, controlled song finds stability in Burhenn's perseverance. “Golden Age” doesn't rally supporters; it maintains its space. But a single sequence will resonate after recent events:

My heart's full of love

And all kinds of peace

But I think even I

Could punch a Nazi

In the face.

The line gets to the heart of Burhenn's work. She's not advocating violence; in the context of the rest of the song, the conflict in the line comes out. Yet seeking for peace in a dangerous world doesn't always result in the hum of meditations. Other feelings flicker, and honest recognition of them reveals something.

Even if Burhenn isn't looking to throw punches, she's not in favor of sitting back and waiting for moral justice to work itself out. Opener “Be Here Now” calls listeners to unity, providing the album's anthemic core. When she sings, “Everybody stand together / Everybody stand your ground,” she shows her stance of resistance. There's a community that she wants to gather. It's one that can “sing real loud” and stand shoulder to shoulder, drawing strength from each other.

The statements themselves each work, but the music's shifts can be odd. Burhenn may have Bowie in mind in her approach to the disc, but her changes from torch singer to new wave to indie pop to '80s pop and so on don't quite cohere. It fits the burst of thought and emotion that drive the record, and it allows her to do something complex, but the seams show. The Mynabirds' last release showed Burhenn to be a “Wildfire", an artist in energetic exploration, and that excitement continues here, even if it doesn't succeed as much.

The key pieces of the album -- “Be Here Now”, “Golden Age”, and “Shouting at the Dark” -- are important works delivered at just the right time. Burhenn's a vital artist with much on her mind and array of styles at her command. In that sense, Be Here Now builds on her career-long work of thinking both personally and politically, of both controlling and unleashing her strength. That approach also reveals itself as just a bit of weakness here, but Burhenn's welcoming personality and willingness to simultaneously dance and resist prove enough to carry the disc (and possibly the day).





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.