The rooftop bar feels as intimate as the 9:30 Club felt epic. Laura hops off the stage for a song, tambourine in hand, and the room is all smiles as the audience dances along. Songs like “Generals” and “Body of Work” take on a different patina with the Washington Monument in the backdrop, red lights in a metronomic throb.
This is the second of a two-part photo journal of The Mynabirds. Click here for pics + reflections from their 9:30 Club show with The Pixies.
June 1, 2015. DC is known for swampy summers, and June weather enters on cue, pressing against us with its fleshy heat. All day, the air is thick with the threat of thunder. On the way to the W Washington, I’m caught in a downpour of what feels like monsoon proportions.
Take equal measures of existentialist musings and political smarts and a voice that hums and crackles in alternating currents of vulnerability, whimsy, and ferociousness, and you get The Mynabirds: a mingling of piano, organ, synths, electric guitars, horns, drums — sometimes danceable, other times hymnal amalgams of melody and rhythm, with singer-pianist Laura Burhenn’s distinctive, arresting vocals at the center of it all. The pop shimmer draws you in. The gritty, soulful depths invite you to linger and explore.
Winter seems to have a hard time letting go this year, shrouding D.C. in a drizzly gray as the Tidal Basin’s cherry trees hesitantly proffer florets. In the midst of the chill gloom, the shimmering energy and upbeat instrumentation that Young Buffalo brought to the Black Cat on Monday night felt just right for easing into sunnier days. The Oxford, Mississippi-based group offers harmony-rich anthems and rock grooves sprinkled with synth lines, a sort of Delta Spirit-meets-the Strokes sound with an occasional bonus cover of Brian Eno.
Originally a duo, Ben Yarbrough and Jim Barrett started writing music together as teenagers. The band now also features drummer Tim Burkhead, bassist Andrew Guinn, and keyboardist Will Eubanks.
“My Place” — the lead single off their new album, House (Votiv Records), is an buoyant earworm of a song, both a remembrance of home and a measured optimism for what’s ahead: “It’s our life, so let us live…whatever we might encounter, we’ll always have that place to go.”
Earlier this week, Jim Barrett answered a few questions via e-mail about musical influences, favorite authors, and tour life.
First off, I’m really digging the new album. Was this your first time working with Dave Schifmann [Haim, Weezer], and what was that collaboration like? This was, and he was the best! He has such a great sense of pop with the hooks and big choruses, but he wasn’t at all opposed to going off-course a little and trying something strange. He was open to anything and really put us in a beautiful place creatively. We hope we can work with him again in the future (LP2 maybe?).
By the grace of the chance encounters in life, I was introduced just today to The Mynabirds’ cover of The Zombies song. Laura Burhenn (of Bright Eyes and Postal Service) sings with a sweetness that is subdued, not saccharine. The pedal steel, played by J. Tom Hnatow (of These United States and Vandaveer), add these subtle shifts of hue — I can’t quite explain why, but for me, it conjures up J.M.W. Turner’s painting of Ulysses’s ship on the open seas. The oars slice through dark waters, bearing the men away from the cyclops’ caves. On the horizon, Apollo’s horses rise, sunshine on their backs. Those gradients of color, those brushstrokes that communicate that dawn is breaking — that’s what this song sounds like.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. This playlist features some of my favorite new albums from the first half of 2014. Hope you enjoy.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. And when the road beckons — when you roll down the window and taste the freedom in the air — those moments call for sunny, glossy indie rock. This playlist includes some of my favorite albums from the first half of 2014. It starts with shades of folk (Americana, folktronica, folk-pop), makes side a excursion into pop and neo-soul, and closes with ebullient, sunshiny rock. Hope you enjoy.
We Could Stay Gold — Summer 2014 Mix First Aid Kit • Damien Jurado • Sylvan Esso • PHOX • Vandaveer Lake Street Dive • Conor Oberst • South Rail • Mimicking Birds • Ha Ha Tonka Beck • The Rosebuds • Damon Albarn • Hamilton Leithauser
If you like this music, please support the artists by purchasing their albums. Just click on the track listing to go to the online store.
The Swedish folk duo’s charming, ambling song may be my theme for summer. It seems so fragile on first listen, but the lilting vocals convey lyrics of surprising heft. To borrow from my favorite Byronic hero: “I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”
Sylvan Esso is the Durham, North Carolina folk-electro-pop project of Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). Meath’s voice is warm and weary as she takes us on fast-forward through the seasons, sketching vignettes: Wild winters, warm coffee / mom’s gone, do you love me / Blazing summer, cold coffee / baby’s gone, do you love me? Sanborn provides the electronic texture — the skittering synths, the chimes between verses. There is something different about Sylvan Esso. Something delightful.