The Bird, clad in a thick headband and sixties style mini-dress, and the Bee, decked out in a three piece suit, look for all the world in album and promotional pictures as if they are single-handedly trying to bring back the glory of bygone days. One might be surprised to realize that their fresh sound is concocted almost exclusively by cutting edge software and keyboards. As the quaint yet saucy double entrende of the band's name suggests, the newest album from The Bird and the Bee, Ray Guns are Not Just the Future, presents a wonderfully peculiar juxtaposition of cheery retro melodies dressed in an irresistibly fresh and modern dance beat. This sort of conflation is to be expected from the band who's arguably hit song made a four letter word a term of endearment sweetly asking if “…you'd be my f* boyfriend?”
For all their retro appeal, when professional vocalist Inara George and producer/musician Greg Kurstin assume the stage in a live concert they are all modern; their music flows from cords and metallic sources that only barely, or even not at all, resemble the instrumental sounds educed from them. Their only props are a microphone and sparingly used bass guitar for George, and just a keyboard for Kurstin though one assumes a computer is nestled somewhere within reach. With these few apparatus they concoct a sound that evokes a full band or orchestra with sounds ranging from tambourine to harp and everything in between. Eluding categories as any innovative band should, dichotomously labeled both Indie pop and Electronica in an iTunes genre field, their sound might best be described as a foundation of trip hop swayed by geographic and historical influences. Bossanova, 50's girl band, and Asian pop reminiscences are set to dance club beats.
This synthetic magic is due, in some to degree, to many years of experience on the part of Kurstin who has worked with (though not by any means adopted the styles of) such diverse names as Flaming Lips, Lily Allen, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rilo Kiley, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Pink, Nelly Furtado, and Ben Harper, among many others. Kurstin is a well-reputed innovator among producers but his work with the Bird and the Bee shows how truly talented he is when given free reign.
His sounds are catchy yet complex, dropping layers to showcase a triangle solo then catching back up to the beat. Inara George's airy vocals, supported by a scant bass line, seem an effluence of light innocence, irrespective of how saucy, sweet, or stern the words she sings might actually be. Her lyrics are neither poetic nor commonplace, they play more with the beat than with the universal feelings of love and social interactions that they address. Quaintly crooning “My clown, let me love you” on the track “My Love” she then switches tones for the “Lifespan of a Fly” eerily whispering “My children, you are not alone.”
Her lyrics stop just short of taking themselves too seriously, adeptly mimicking the trademarks of the accompanying melodies- easy to listen to without ever boring.
Previous albums have garnered praise based on the duo's irresistibly catchy melodies, George's impeccably pitched vocals, and an infectiously optimistic mix of new and old sensibilities captured in sound. Ray Guns are Not Just the Future delivers the same winning suite yet again making it a listen unlikely to disappoint anyone who enjoys tapping their toes.