Yet, there are still artist of previous days, making the art of sound, even in our day, that are very much enjoyable.
Many of my favorite bands/musical acts happen to be duos. There is something about two people, for the past some odd 30 years or so, that lends to pop greatness. Maybe more focused and discerning than a solo artist who often does not have enough collected, healthy criticism to keep them from blundering into self-indulgent, ineffectual, or overly multi-styled experiments. Where as full bands may sometimes lend themselves to monochromatic compositions due to a frequent inability to agree. Maybe two people are also more likely to experiment in areas that the one, by themselves, are too fearful to traverse? This would be the case of The Duckworth Lewis Method.
All this being speculation, there is still something to the power of a duo to produce well balanced, artistic, creative, brilliant pop music. This is true for, as examples, Pet Shop Boys (Tennet and Lowe), Erasure (Clark and Bell), and Goldfrapp (Gregory and Goldfrapp).
One of the most recent additions to my favorite duos list, recent being within the past 10 years, is The Bird and The Bee (George and Kurstin). They started their career around about 2005 or 2006, and my mind was blown when I first heard them on a local college radio station in 2007. Their first album, also entitled The Bird and the Bee, quickly became one of my favorite recordings. It is a beautiful work of art, and, along with their other records, highly recommended.
The Bird and The Bee, unlike the other duos mentioned above, are actually American; they come from Southern Californian. Like the other duos mentioned above, both members share songwriting duties, but one leans into the role of music tech and instrumental expert, while the other more so takes on the role of the voice and image. Sometimes the latter brings a bit of humanity, flamboyance, and soul to the mix.
So, I was extremely happy, a couple of months ago, when I heard that The Bird and The Bee were FINALLY going to release a new album! It was to be the first record they had done in 5 years. The new album, Recreational Love, has been out and available for about 2 months now. It can be a bit difficult to compare it to their previous music. They are still the same band, in many ways, but also, of course, there is some change from their previous work. All bands/musicians change over time. It is one of the characteristics of artist. Given that The Bird and The Bee were approaching their 10th year of existence, when many often go astray from their former glory, the jury was out as to if they could still make good music.
For the new album, they have left behind some of their earlier Jazz/pop influence. Their songs are a little less Burt Bacharach, and a little more like Heatwave, The Tom Tom Club, or even Hall & Oates. More concise, more dance oriented, and more soulful, they have shifted their sound and style just enough to keep things fresh, but not so much as to alienate fans like me. I hear a bit of neo-soul and neo-pop in some of the songs (remember that Kurstin has, on the side, or as his day job, been a successful producer for Sia, Foster the People, Pink, Lykee Li, and Lily Allen.) The title song, “Recreational Love,” probably could get some radio play on R&B radio.
The new album finds Inara George pushing her voice to new levels, and still sounding as good as ever. She does some vocal styling sometimes similar Michael Jackson, but she is still herself and sounds like only she could sound. The lyrics on the album are a bit simpler than on previous albums. Some choruses are repetitive and general, much like some of Phil Collins’ biggest hits. Think, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” or “Take Me Home,” but instead insert “Los Angeles” (and there is even a song on the new album called “Please Take me Home.”) There are no songs as lyrically thoughtful as older The Bird and The Bee songs like “Man” or “What’s in the Middle.” But, the songs are still very pleasurable even if they do not have quite as much to say.
What we have with Recreational Love is shameless, respectable pop. It’s a neo-pop mixed with 80s dance styles and 80s funk rhythms. There are some good synth tones, good dance rhythms, and well crafted songs. One could say they left behind some of their former beauty, with some exceptions like “Lovey Dovey,” but these songs are just so entertaining and fun that I don’t really mind.
I highly recommend Recreational Love if you like pop music. The important thing is that this duo is still one of the more talented songwriting teams of our day. Their music infuses one’s soul with great beauty and joy.