Some people (even people who write for this site) believe music has room for guilty pleasures, music that you know isnt 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.
Im 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 couldnt 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 Clarksons 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 hes the silent partner, much like Goldfrapps arrangement. Kurstin’s experience playing and producing for inventive pop acts such as Beck and Kylie Minogue comes through in the albums 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 theyre very easy on the ears. But if you sit down with the album and perk up your ears, youll catch some sleek arrangements that share the same fondness for lightheartedness that Psapps 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 Georges smooth vocals shamelessly candy-coat the refrain: Hey, boy, wont you take me out tonight? / Im not afraid of all the reasons we shouldnt try. You can imagine George lying on her stomach, writing in her diary and twirling her hair.
The albums strength might also be its biggest weakness: for the most part, Kurstin and George dont attempt to be philosophical about love or life. That they know their limitations bodes well for them because nothings sadder than lighthearted music getting dragged down by bigand likely half-bakedideas. 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 youll 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. Its the sort of song Lady GaGas supposed to be making.
The only true weakling on the album is the closer, Lifespan of a Fly. Its not a bad song, it just makes me think weve suddenly entered a conceptual song about a flys mortality, and I dont know if were supposed to take it seriously or not. Considering these are the same people who took on Rihannas Dont Stop the Music, I have faith that Im over thinking the track. And seeing as its at the end of the album, I can just skip it and go back to clapping my hands to My Love.