What an intelligent fucking album.
And that sums up the grace, yet sporadic imbalance, of the Bird and the Bee’s self-titled debut. The duo, singer-songwriter Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, have crafted pop of the highest pedigree: minimalist sans pretentiousness; suggestive instead of provocative; feminine but with teeth. The project finds strength in synergy, working off each member’s best qualities; they balance a dry vocal tone here with a melodramatic keyboard sigh there. Though The Bird and the Bee flubs occasionally, the album clocks in at under forty minutes-just enough to catch your attention with a fragrant whiff and leave you searching for the source.
The album’s attractive qualities owe great favor to the music’s nods. George and Kurstin modernize elements of ’50s/’60s vocal jazz and ’60s/’70s instrumental pop, making their album familiar to librarians but refreshing for casual listeners. Though they reference cliches at times, the group’s even-headed approach makes for a hip and languidly swinging affair-certainly, a welcome break from the moronically major/minor flatness permeating today’s pop. In this manner, the bossa onomatopoeia of “La La La” and “Again & Again” warms the party, while “I’m a Broken Heart” combines the regality of Burt Bacharach and the ache of Brian Wilson to set the scene.
At times, the group flosses delicateness, like the way George tiptoes down the chorus of “My Fair Lady,” emphasizing “cho-co-lots” with the absurdity of Eliza Doolittle masking her cockney. But the technique is superb, like a perfectly released Slinky making its way evenly down a flight of stairs. And the writing occasionally trips, notably on the relatively alarming “Fucking Boyfriend.” The song is meant to be the jagged little pill, but it is in fact the most milquetoast on the album. Filled with dance-lite programming and an unnecessarily repetitious hook that kills the chorus’s shock value, the song becomes bitter and a pill to have around. However, the bulk of the writing shines; it taps into the melodrama of yore yet uses the extremity of today’s language: “Aching and teething, my big love is bleeding/ I think I might be dying.” Punch-drunk and love-sick, The Bird and the Bee is ideal for those moments when you want chew their face and scoop out their eyes and eat them and chew them and suck on them. Yes, this is nice.