To understand the sophomore record from former Bright Eyes touring member Laura Burhenn—the brains behind The Mynabirds—you first need to know the origin of the title: a Richard Avedon photo, “Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution.” For Burhenn, this image raised the question of who and what a contemporary, revolutionary American woman is. What’s her role in succession of such forebears as Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf? This is Burhenn’s revolutionary album—her contribution.
The soft meditations from her excellent debut, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, take a backseat to teeth-bearing calls to arms, like on “Generals.” There’s also the pounding synth and sway-worthy bridge of “Disarm,” and the album’s bookends, opener “Karma Debt” and closer “Greatest Revenge,” where she chants, “I’d give it all/ For a legacy of love,” amid sparse, yet thick melodies.
Over the course of 37 minutes, Generals takes listeners on an undulating frolic into Burhenn’s unrestrained creativity in crafting diverse songs and into her catalyst for the semi-conceptual album: 10 years of frustration with the political system. Both can be felt, for instance, on the dancey, foot-stomping, hand-clapping “Body of Work”: “Freedom is what you do with what/ What’s been done to you.” As such, in music, and the arts in general, it’s simultaneously the artist’s duty to make public comment on the whys and wherefores of the world while also moving something in their audience. On both accounts, Burhenn succeeds. Saddle Creek, June 5 (Austen Diamond)
Beach House, Bloom
Sub Pop, Beach House’s record label, says, “The songs have depth and reveal themselves in new ways through repeated listening,” of the new album. While at face value, this seems a cop out and ploy to encourage fans to try the album again if they find themselves underwhelmed at first—as I was—the testament is true.
Every track starts simply with one or two elementary-sounding instruments, then builds into elegantly layered dream pop that could rival Enya in creating calm and tranquil feelings. But it’s not trite or kooky like a Pure Moods compilation; it’s a smart, smooth indie cousin.
Single tracks like the ethereal “The Hours” and bright, bouncy “New Year” can stand on their own, but, overall, it’s easy for Bloom’s tracks to meld together and become background music, and that works for it. Because the album plays best as a whole, it’s not an each-track-sold-separately situation. Sub Pop Records, May 15 (Katherin Nelson)