On the way home from spending New Year’s Eve with some friends, I was caught by surprise by an alluring, mysterious and altogether magnificent song playing on the radio. In my state of sleepiness, slight inebriation (I was in the passenger seat, so take it easy now), I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the tune, which was equally sleepy, intoxicated and intoxicating, and even a bit sexy. And what made it that much more intriguing is that I had absolutely no idea who or what it was. But mere moments before arriving home, the DJ ran through the list of the last half dozen songs he played, most notable among them “La La La” by Los Angeles duo The Bird and The Bee.
The Bird and the Bee, consisting of vocalist Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin (I’m guessing she’s the bird and he’s the bee), find the proper balance between the nü lounge of Nouvelle Vague and Keren Ann and the electronic buoyancy of The Blow and Au Revoir Simone. Their self-titled debut album has a certain lounge-inspired laziness, but with sharp incisors that cut through the easiness with enough of an edge to keep you from becoming lost in your martini. Kitsch is all fine and good, but George and Kurstin have something far more rewarding—good songs.
Leadoff track “Again & Again” is an instant classic, a sultry and ethereal trip-hop trip through acoustic strums, buzzing synths and George’s own breathtaking vocals. She may not be saying much of anything (“Say my name say my name, say my stupid name/it’s stupid how we always seem to do it again“), but it sounds absolutely charming. “Birds and the Bees” floats along, so light it’s barely there, yet shuffles into a jazzy chorus that’s at once catchy and intricately structured. “My Fair Lady” is a stunning and magical take on Eliza Doolittle, while “I Hate Camera” stacks on the dance beats just to keep the album from being completely overtaken by laid back sensuality.
Then there’s “La La La.” I may have already made my point of how much I love this song, but it’s worth noting again. The chorus alone is wonderful, George cooing the title with delicate, wispy grace. Yet the verses read like a nursery rhyme, as she mentions pigs “eating popcorn and selling tickets to the show” and a “pretty idiot kissing everyone she doesn’t know.” Three weeks later, as I listen to it with no alcohol in my system and a higher state of alertness, it seems to be even more incredible. Not every song is as successful—”Fucking Boyfriend,” while pleasant enough, seems to drive the titular refrain into oblivion, and “Because” attempts an R&B groove that doesn’t quite have the same coy charm as the rest of the album.
A few lackluster moments don’t spoil the remainder of the album, however, and only serve to illustrate just how great the best tracks truly are. Between “Again & Again,” “La La La” and “Preparedness,” The Bird and the Bee have already provided me with three of my new favorite songs. If only every New Year’s Day started off as well as this one did.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.