The 1960s band The Mynah Birds was a Canadian R&B group who, although they never released an album, was known for featuring a surprisingly large number of big-hitters, including Neil Young, Nick St. Nicholas, and Rick James. Embracing the ‘60s group’s name as well as their adoptive attitude, singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn and producer Richard Swift began the contemporary musical project, The Mynabirds' What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood.
In the spring of 2009, Burhenn—formerly of Washington D.C.’s defunct indie duo, Georgie James—turned away from her personal losses and a worn-out style to create her own, individual feel. By compiling sounds from gospel hymns and old country harmonies, Burhenn cobbles the echoes of Carole King, Dusty Springfield, and Cat Power, imitating sounds from the past, yet through this amalgamation producing an updated musical perspective.
This all sounds complicated, but ironically what struck me most about What We Lose was the lack of superfluous sound. The best tracks on the album—Wash It Out, for example— are stripped to the bare musical bones and feel very folk-festival simple, an impressive feat given the carefully considered inspiration.
Unfortunately, despite the well-planned and researched approach to the music, The Mynabirds’ final product doesn’t quite live up to its own expectations. On first listen, some of the songs left me skipping around in hopes of a standout sound, which I never quite found. In truth, I would rather listen to the original music of most of Burhenn’s muses than to her take on them.
Like the 1960s Mynah Birds, Burhenn’s Mynabirds compile and present a huge amount of potential that is never fully realized. An intellectually intriguing, understated album, What We Lose in the Fire gives a new, but not necessarily exciting, take on a good sound and showcases what is, unquestionably, a decent amount of talent.
Recommendations: “Let The Record Show,” “Wash It Out,” “Numbers Don’t Lie”
-- Emma Forster