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Posted on August 14th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Nick Manai

Laura Burhenn, the central presence of The Mynabirds, makes the kind of somber folk-pop that can sometimes seem soothing, but is often direct and bitter. Her last album, 2012’s GENERALS, traded organic folk methodologies for synths, opening her voice up to a grander platform. But more telling was the direct political incisiveness of the record, which found her looking inside only to express the growing degredation caused by debt, cynicism and greed. "I need a political job/ In a blue-collar town/ So I can pay my rent," she sang with fixed eyes, the realization that being a singer-songwriter has not meant holding a “political job” in years never quite so clear. But her third record for Saddle Creek, Lovers Know, looks past the objective to untangle the wires within; it posits Burhenn as the un-equivocating voice of the Mynabirds and intimately places her persona upfront for us to connect with.

For many of the aesthetic choice’s that make her a dead ringer for release on Saddle Creek, Burhenn gets compared to artists like Sharon Van Etten and Jessica Pratt. But Lovers Know really asks you to rediscover her voice with new ears. She comes across as a rock star; not a megalomaniac, but still the main course. Her phrases are wry and sometimes ironic, and she is self-deprecating but also empowered. She is the source of gravity, the very thing that makes or breaks a song from Lana Del Ray.

Which, unfortunately, is what hurts Lovers Know in such a pervasively vague way. Many of these songs are lovingly dappled with sharp synths and Burhenn’s musky vocals are nothing if not conscientious. It would be easy to say, “there’s just something missing,” but that would make the album beholden to a lack of effort, skill, or incision, of which there is none. Burhenn’s foibles and hardships are real and important, but can feel blurry. “Water my love, we could be changing like water/ But sometimes you’re as hard as the ice in Siberia,” she sings on “Semantics.” Even if you let the awkward Siberia simile slide, somewhere between the retro-outfitting of the synths and the post-punk gravel she tries to mine in her voice, there’s a disconnect with the need for hope and change and reconciliation within a relationship. If they don’t make it it’s sad, but it’ll be someone else’s sadness to me.

So the persona of Burhenn winds up sitting somewhere between extremes on Lovers Know. Lana Del Ray is not the most inclusive writer in music today. It isn’t always easy to feel her next to you when she’s checking off bad boys, copious supplies of drugs and California sunsets. But even if you find her tiresome, you can’t help but find her essence explicit. It might not be your life, but it sure is interesting. That is a contrast to the plebeian circumstances of Van Etten’s writing, which mines precious inner-metals for true heartbreak. When she sings “every time the sun comes up I’m in trouble,” it’s not a decision and you likely will have seen the sun the same way. Burhenn tries for both and ends up with... you be the judge.

None of this stands in the way of Lovers Know catching your eye and asking you for a little more. But the further and further you go, you might look for ice that’s a bit harder.

Track List:

  1. "All My Heart"
  2. "Believer"
  3. "Semantics"
  4. "Say Something"
  5. "Orion"
  6. "Velveteen"
  7. "Shake Your Head Yes"
  8. "Wildfire"
  9. "Omaha"
  10. "One Foot"
  11. "Hanged Man"
  12. "Last Time"
The Mynabirds: Lovers Know
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

62 / 100
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