The Mynabirds – ‘Lovers Know’ – Album Review

Lovers Know  Released August 7th Via Saddle Creek Records.

I’m not one who goes in for much of contemporary pop, but a band that cribs their name from the incomparable Neil Young and Rick James collaboration Mynah Birds piques my interest. Moreover, when that band subverts pop structure and employs it as a delivery vehicle for unorthodox soundscapes, I’m doubly intrigued. The Mynabirds have already released two impressive albums, Generals and What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, and their forthcoming release Lovers Know continues to challenge what the genre is capable of.

Lovers Know manages the unique feat of appealing to fans of Lana Del Rey while containing enough complexity to substantiate lead singer Laura Burhenn’s bona fides for indie purists. There’s a clear love of Kate Bush coupled with an affection for the oversaturated fuzz of early shoegaze. The effect is akin to The Magnetic Fields’ seminal Get Lost: a charming 80s synth homage with enough contemporary production to keep the whole effort toothsome. Inevitable single “Wildfire” is a bit too radio friendly for my tastes, with its Velvet Underground bassline, driving piano, and summertime singalong chorus, but the remaining tracks have an engrossing crepuscular quality.

While the lyrical content isn’t always particularly impressive (witness the trite: “When I love, I love with all my heart/When it’s over, this hole here might tear me apart” or “I’d walk through hell for just one kiss/I’d give everything I had for a minute more of this”), its confessional aspect at least seems earnest. Burnhenn toured as a member of The Postal Service in 2013, and she appears to have internalized the band’s capacity to craft accessible music while sharpening things with a dollop of her own moodiness. The opening of “Orion” has a squall of guitar and caveman kick drum that recall The Jesus and Mary Chain, but the brooding chill is thawed by expanding, nigh-operatic synths. Meanwhile, “Shake Your Head” exhibits the laptop new wave minimalism of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Of course, the entire album is supported by the robust infrastructure of Burhenn’s piquant voice, reminiscent of Fiona Apple.

The tempo never gears past low to mid, but the exercise of listening to Burhenn cast into a variety sonic milieus will keep listeners’ attention. “Wildfire” follower “Omaha” is a sparse, delicate reflection on loss that doesn’t accelerate for nearly three minutes. Even then, it’s too subtle a shift to characterize as a proper “build,” before the whole song gently descends with a snowfall of feedback and synthy drone out.

Ultimately, Lovers Know is a quiet affair, but it’s no less impactful for that. Burhenn has achieved a justified level of confidence in her voice and instincts, following them without fear. With a voice like hers, she could head off in almost whatever direction she wants and we’d still listen to her.

The Mynabirds are on tour in the UK now. Catch them in London at The Islington August 5th, or in Berlin at Sommerloft (Escobar) August 10th.

Lovers Know is out August 7th from Saddle Creek Records.

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