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The Bird and the Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

on January 28, 2009, 3:30pm
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Some people (even people who write for this site) believe music has room for guilty pleasures, music that you know isn’t good but you still like anyway. Guilty pleasures do not share the same stratosphere as “Legitimate Music”. You have to jump to defend the guilty ones when someone looks at your iPod and raises a brow. Then you scroll over to Sufjan Stevens to show them that you actually have taste.

I’m not one of those people. Music is either good or not, and a good pop album can sit alongside a good post-rock album without shame. However, while listening to Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, the second full-length LP from L.A. duo The Bird and the Bee, I couldn’t help but think that this might be one of those albums that would go in the “Legitimate Music category”, if I believed in such a thing. In much the same way Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” found validation amongst the masses and the elite, I hear bona fide merit in the breezy pop of Ray Guns.

The Bird and the Bee consists of Greg Kurstin and Inara George, where she is the voice of the band and he’s the silent partner, much like Goldfrapp’s arrangement. Kurstin’s experience playing and producing for inventive pop acts such as Beck and Kylie Minogue comes through in the album’s 14 tracks. You could easily hear these songs in the background at the mall or in a CW show and not give them a second chance, as they’re very easy on the ears. But if you sit down with the album and perk up your ears, you’ll catch some sleek arrangements that share the same fondness for lightheartedness that Psapp’s The Only Thing I Ever Wanted did in 2006.

“My Love”, the second track and highlight of the album, is 1960s California pop made in the 21st century. The hand claps and George’s smooth vocals shamelessly candy-coat the refrain: “Hey, boy, won’t you take me out tonight? / I’m not afraid of all the reasons we shouldn’t try.” You can imagine George lying on her stomach, writing in her diary and twirling her hair.

The album’s strength might also be its biggest weakness: for the most part, Kurstin and George don’t attempt to be philosophical about love or life. That they know their limitations bodes well for them because nothing’s sadder than lighthearted music getting dragged down by big—and likely half-baked—ideas. Still, for an album made with so much care, how much boy talk can we stand to listen to? At worst, you might find yourself hitting pause halfway through to take a breather, but you’ll still keeping coming back to it.

The two-song sequence of “Ray Gun” and “Love Letter to Japan” is a prime example of The Bird and the Bee at their best. The two tracks’ lyricalicality and musical fun and are one good DJ away from club remixes. “Ray Gun” is 1990s trip-hop made even radio-friendlier than it already was. “Love Letter to Japan” has a fist-pounding “Ho ho ho ho!” refrain, choral background vocals and vocoded Japanese lyrics. It’s the sort of song Lady GaGa’s supposed to be making.

The only true weakling on the album is the closer, “Lifespan of a Fly”. It’s not a bad song, it just makes me think we’ve suddenly entered a conceptual song about a fly’s mortality, and I don’t know if we’re supposed to take it seriously or not. Considering these are the same people who took on Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”, I have faith that I’m over thinking the track. And seeing as it’s at the end of the album, I can just skip it and go back to clapping my hands to “My Love”.

Check Out:
“My Love”

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