The Mynabirds’ “What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood”

“She’s taking you on a journey, opening one book and closing the other, ducking through hostile moments and walking barefoot on highways…” – Beth Yeckley

Beth Yeckley
Myrnabirds - What We Loose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

out of 10

What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood
April 27, 2010

In her debut album under the moniker, The Mynabirds, Laurie Burhenn (formerly of Georgie James) joins with Richard Swift to create a reflective and progressive album recounting the life that has been since Georgie James parted ways.  The album boasts contributions from Tom Hnatow of These United States, Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes, and Orenda Fink of Azure Ray, making What We Lost In The Fire a polyphony of soulful and talented music.  Burhenn’s visceral confrontations of the misfortune and tragedy that befell her during the time she spent writing the album are laced throughout each song.

The album kicks off with “What We Gained in the Fire,” which hints that this 10-track wonder may carry a somber aura.  Burhenn’s voice, though rich and smoky, sounds like it carries baggage.  But less than two minutes into this song, she makes it clear that this album is everything but a memoir on defeat.  Thunderous guitar riffs join piano play and if this song was playing in your church, now’s about the time you’d get up and start pumping your fist.  She sings, “And I got something I don’t want to lose / But I’m learning to let go of you / What we lose in the fire we gain in the flood.”  Polish off this song with Nate Walcott playing the horns, and you know the album is just getting started with you.

Acute pounding and spirited vocals singing “oooooohhhhh” make “Let the Record Go” sound like it could have been recorded with Jack White in the next room.   The mix of the percussion and the keys, which sound like they are fighting back against the fingers bashing them down, boast a soulful rhythm that would unseat your grandmother.

Burhenn shows off a genius for interweaving generationally estranged musical components, making an appealing argument for folk, old 50’s and 60’s pop, gospel, and garage to get together in studio.  Songs like “Numbers Don’t Lie” and “We Made a Mountain” are little gems on the album that have clear sights set on stealing away young hearts at a 1950’s high school dance.

“LA Rain” has to be mentioned simply because of the great backing vocals provided by Orenda Fink, of Azure Ray, which could induce a revival in any environment.  “Wash It Out” and “Right Place” are lyrically very strong depictions of where Burhenn’s growth over the past few years has taken her.  In the former song she sings, “Too much common sense will leave a bad taste in your mouth / So wash it out wash it out wash it out / Nothing ever follows all the lines that we lay down / But still it helps to think we’ve figured something out / So lay your plans by the sea / And when the tide comes in just let them bleed.”

“Give it Time” is very reminiscent of the praiseworthy work accomplished by Fiona Apple on Tidal—from the keys to the rumbling percussion, the track is filled with a bittersweet haze that is both delicate and gripping.  And so Burhenn’s voice saunters into the room singing, “But we don’t have to guess / If it’s good or it’s bad / Oh we’ll wait and we’ll see / It’s hard to know when you’re in it / If it’s heads or it’s tails / If we won or we failed / Oh we’ll wait and we’ll see.”

You can tell that she’s taking you on a journey, opening one book and closing the other, ducking through hostile moments and walking barefoot on highways, lying on a church pew taking a few last breaths before jamming her heart out.  And jam she does on this debut album, with prepossessing vocals and masterful arrangements that will not leave you wanting.