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The Mynabirds: A Hypnotic Voice, Radiating Sincerity

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The Mynabirds: A Hypnotic Voice, Radiating Sincerity

The Mynabirds: A Hypnotic Voice, Radiating Sincerity

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(Soundbite of music)

DAVE DAVIES, host:

Our rock critic Ken Tucker has been listening to the debut album from a new band called The Mynabirds. The band's led by singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn, whose influences range from Dusty Springfield and Carole King, to Carl Jung and Sufi poetry. The album's called "What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood."

Here's Ken's review.

(Soundbite of song, "Let the Record Go")

Ms. LAURA BURHENN (Singer/songwriter, The Mynabirds): (Singing) Oh. Let the record show, you gave it all your might. And let the record show, I gave it all of my mine. It didnt turn out quite, quite like we hoped. So lay your best behind and let the record go.

KEN TUCKER: Laura Burhenn talks a good game. She invokes Dusty Springfield and Carl Jung in interviews. She says she wants to quote, "make a record that felt like Neil Young doing Motown." She implies that she didn't know until she'd named her band that The Mynabirds that this was also the name of a 1960s Canadian band that included Neil Young and Rick James. In short, if she didn't sing with a voice that erases all of the above the instant you hear her, she'd be insufferable. Instead, she's nearly hypnotic.

(Soundbite of song, "We Made a Mountain")

Ms. BURHENN: (Singing) We made a mountain out of a minute. And we let it stand in our way. I called your name from the earth. But you couldnt hear it for the mountain we made. We rolled around on the roads of misfortune then we ran, how we got to this place? I could be wrong but I swear I recall every problem and the hassles (unintelligible). And I hope youre happy today.

WARD: When Laura Burhenn sings in that song, "Wash It Out" the refrain, I hope you're happy today; she leaves out the cheap irony that such an anguished ballad would usually carry with it. The challenge here is to convince you that she really does hope the person that she's parting from really is happy now. It's a challenge she meets by singing past the soul-music horns, pushing through the atmospheric music to shake you into a belief in her sincerity. And it just gets better on "LA Rain."

(Soundbite of song, "LA Rain")

Ms. BURHENN: (Singing) I've got eyes that say a (unintelligible). I just came and they went away. They told me I'd be fine. And what were they to say? They believed these things. Just make the call right here. I can't turn. It's over in LA rain.

"LA Rain" is Laura Burhenn's contribution to a great rock tradition the California-will-bless-you-if-it-doesn't-kill-you song, whose practitioners have ranged from The Mamas and the Papas and The Beau Brummels, to Jennifer Warnes and Warren Zevon. Working with producer-musician Richard Swift, The Mynabirds create a big beat that sounds as though it was tumbling down Laurel Canyon. It's a song that runs you over. By contrast, the song "What We Gained In the Fire" is a stately, stationary yet rickety song you listen to it seeing Burhenn standing rooted to her spot in the recording studio, letting the guitar and piano rise up around her like blazing flames, a heat she first resists and then gives herself over to.

(Soundbite of song, "What We Gained In the Fire")

Ms. BURHENN: (Singing) We are a ship on an ocean passing all the way back home. We could ride for (unintelligible) and we move on way over. But I got something that I dont want to lose. And I'm not ready to leave you. We are (unintelligible).

WARD: The credits to this Mynabirds album read: made by Richard Swift and Laura Burhenn. The collection has just that sense of authorship, of a group of songs crafted by producer and singer to create a world of its own. There's no need for Burhenn to cite her influences, even if she may be drawing from the dreams of Dusty Springfield or of Jung. It's what she's done to the raw material of her imagination, shaping it into a succession of startlingly intimate conversations with us as listeners that makes this album so potent.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly.

You can listen to several tracks from the Mynabirds, including the ballad, "Wash It Out," on nprmusic.org. You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair. And, of course, you can download podcast of our show at freshair.npr.org.

For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of music)

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