Archive for the ‘The Mynabirds’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE MYNABIRDS-Tiny Desk Concert #670 (November 10, 2017).

I thought the name The Mynabirds sounded familiar.  Turns out they performed Tiny Desk Concert #64 (by my count).

Bob Boilen says he

first met Laura Burhenn ten years ago for a songwriting project she did with John Davis, her then bandmate in the duo Georgie James, here at NPR called Project Song. [which I plan to write about at some point].  Her current band, The Mynabirds, are Tiny Desk alum, Laura having played her first Tiny Desk Concert in the spring of 2010.  I’m not one to repeat artists at the Tiny Desk. I’m more into discovering and challenging new bands to play in this intimate and awkward setting. But this project was so different and Laura had ideas about how to make it even more special from what she’d done back in 2010, so I couldn’t resist.

2016 was a tough year … the elections and subsequent inauguration, which were devastating to many. But what transpired next for anyone dismayed by those events was inspiring: The Women’s March united many who were in despair, while giving purpose and focus to what for them was an unthinkable outcome in the election of Donald Trump.

Then came the songs – nine new ones Laura Burhenn wrote with Patrick Damphier, inspired by the many marches around the country, listening to the news, seeing social media, talking to friends and taking it all in. The result is The Mynabirds’ politically charged 2017 album Be Here Now.

The band sings four songs.  “Golden Age” features Laura on keys with a backing band of cello (Alexia Kauffman), guitar (Emily Moore) and bass guitar (Damphier). This song is full of lamentations and her husky voice works quite well with it.  She speaks of dead musicians, and political horrors.  The solo in the middle is interesting for it being deliberately jarring and somewhat out of tune.  Lyrically the song is pretty outstanding

Tell me, where are our heroes
Are they stuck at the wall?
Cause we got some real villains to stop
Before they kill us all

I see what you’re doing
With the Jews and the Muslims
You’re sawing us all
In half with your fake fear

My heart’s full of love
And all kinds of peace
But I think even
Could punch a Nazi 
In the face

I just wish the song was more angry than sad.

For second song, “Shouting At The Dark” The People’s Choir come in.  The song rocks more with a great swinging bassline and some interesting muffled chugging guitar.  The choir really fills out the song and it sounds great.

I love the melody of the chorus which is once again, not entirely pretty–slightly haunting, except that they sound beautiful.  Adriana-Lucia Cotes is hitting these slightly dissonant notes that really standout in an interesting way.

Before the third song, “Hold On,” Laura talks about the choir, songwriting and the Muslim travel ban:

While recording this album, a travel ban was issued affecting six Muslim-majority countries. She wrote a song for refugees inspired by the ban and got in touch with friends back in Omaha at the Refugee Empowerment Center. It is there she learned of the Umoja Choir whose members include resettled refugees from The Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and they ended up singing on her record. Laura also started a GoFundMe campaign for them to record their songs. Now some of those choir members Diendonne Manirakiza and Eric Esron (refugees from Burundi) have come to the Tiny Desk for a powerful set of songs. They’re joined by Michael Boggs, another Tiny Desk alum: Jessica Lea Mayfield. It’s an inspired project that I’m excited to share.

“Hold On” is “about having a heart.”  It’s a slower song with acoustic guitar and prominent cello.  The choir sounds like a “real” choir instead of backing vocalists on this uplifting song.

“Wild Hearts” opens with a cool echoed electric guitar.  For this song the choir works as powerful backing vocalists on this even more uplifting song.

[READ: May 20, 2017] Pretty Deadly 2

I didn’t really like the first book of this series.  And I didn’t like this book much either.  So I am officially giving up.

This book continues with the exposition by butterfly and dead rabbit.  An old woman, Sarah, is dying.  During the night she is visited by a ghost–of the man with slashes across his eyes, Fox (I can’t recall their relationship). Granddaughter Clara walks in and see the ghost.  Clara’s mother comes in and sees the ghost too.  And after some ugly words they ask if they can keep Sarah from dying until her son gets back to see her one last time–he is off fighting in a war somewhere. (more…)

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mannersmillionSOUNDTRACK: THE MYNABIRDS-Tiny Desk Concert #64 (June 21, 2010).

mynabrodI wish I liked The Mynabirds a bit more than I do, especially after hearing the origin story of the band’s name.  Laura Burhenn says she wanted to create a band that was sort of like Neil Young playing Motown.  She toyed with the name Myna and came up with The Mynabirds and then found out that in the 1960s Neil Young and Rick James had made music together for Motown under the name The Mynah Birds.  Cool.

Burnhenn has a sultry kind of voice, which is nice.  But I don’t really like Motown, so the “ooh la la” in the verses and the whole sound of the chorus of “Numbers Don’t Lie” is not my thing.

I prefer the second song “Let the Record Go” which is a bit faster and more rocking (and I like the oh’s at the end of each verse much more).  The final song is by request from Bob.  It’s the lead off track from the album “What We Gained in the Fire.”  It’s a slow broody opener with interesting lyrics.  It has a R&B feel and is a fine song.

It’s possible that I am confusing them with someone else, but I thought the band was more folky, so this was a little disappointing to me (although they are clearly very good).

[READ: June 19, 2015] Manners for Millionaires

I saw this book at work and thought it sounded really funny.  A 1900 British book about millionaires?  With that obvious pseudonym?

The opening prefatory note says that “the coloured plates specially prepared for this volume had at the last moment to be omitted owing to the unfortunate indisposition of the Academician employed, but rather than disappoint the Public we have inserted instead a few specimen woodcuts from a forthcoming treatise on British Fishes.”

Great, so, silly, nonsensical fun, right?

Well, the problem for me with this book is that it supposes you know a lot about wealth and the aristocracy of England circa 1900.  Gah.  I’m not even exactly sure who the intended audience was for this book. (more…)

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: MYNABIRDS-“All My Heart” NPR Lullaby SXSW (March 19, 2015).

mynaFrom March 17-March 21, the SXSW festival raged on. And my friends at NPR Music were there so I didn’t have to be. In past years they have had a nightly recap of their favorite shows of the day. This year they upped the ante by inviting a musician to sing a lullaby.  Most of these lullabies occurred in some unexpected outdoor location at 2 or so A.M. after a long day of music.

For this lullaby, the NPR gang met by Waller Creek, giving Laura Burhenn a perfect backdrop to her 2 A.M. lullaby. It’s just her and her tiny Casio keyboard (which is on an interesting setting that makes it sound more like a harmonium).

This is an as yet unreleased song.  It is simple and charming.  And I really like the way she plays an unexpected note in the chorus. Her voice is dusky and quiet and it all works so well in this setting. It’s a beautiful lullaby.

Check it out here.

[READ: March 23, 2015] “My Mother’s Apartment”

This issue of Harper’s featured five essays (well four essays and one short story) about “Growing Up: five coming of age stories.”  Since I knew a few of these authors already, it seemed like a good time to devote an entire week to growing up.  There are two introductions, one by Christine Smallwood (who talks about Bob Seger) and one by Joshua Cohen who talks about the coming of age narrative.

I don’t know Barrodale’s writing.  She says that she was 24 and took a writing class but only lasted for one day in the class.  She felt that getting an MFA was dishonorable.  Rather, she wanted to a have a real job but to write fiction on the side:  “I wanted to be like William Gaddis.  I wanted to work, drink, wear normal clothes, pay my bills and write.”

She was 31 when she realized her plans were not going to come true. (more…)

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