Recreational Love is The Bird And The Bee’s first album in five years, following 2010’s excellent covers album Interpreting The Master’s Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall and John Oates. During recent years, I’d started to become convinced that they would never do another album, largely because Greg Kurstin has become one of the music industry’s top producers — and a busy bee at that — working with everyone from Kelly Clarkson to P!nk to Lily Allen to Lykke Li. Meanwhile, the other half of the duo, singer Inara George, has been busy having three children, releasing solo material and being one-third of the folk trio The Living Sisters. Fortunately, I was wrong and they’re back with this wonderful new album that metaphorically sweeps me off my feet every time I listen to it.
The reason why it took them five years to make Recreational Love? Their schedules are so full that they only worked on it for two hours each week, Fridays from 10 a.m. until noon. That said, they recorded a lot more songs than the ten that are on the album, so perhaps they’ll release a new album or EP using a bunch of those during the next couple of years instead of making us wait half a decade again. One can hope.
The main thing I think about when I listen to Recreational Love is sitting around in a posh lounge, drinking twenty dollar martinis while it plays on the high end stereo system. It definitely has what I’ll call a sophisticated cocktail vibe. You could just as easily envision yourself chilling out in your favorite cafe while it plays. It also makes me think of riding the ferris wheel on Santa Monica pier while holding hands with a super pretty girl. To that end, there’s definitely a California air to the album, which actually has a charming tribute song called “Los Angeles,” which Kurstin has described as “a love letter to the city.”
One of the best things about The Bird And The Bee is that they don’t try to sound like hipsters. They’re the artists that hipsters can only dream of becoming. The oh so cool Kurstin and George simply care about making great music that pleases them. If people like it, that makes them very happy, but they’re doing it for the love of music, not to sell a million albums. Then again, the album’s first single, “Will You Dance” is catchy enough that it could very well wind up on top 40 radio. (If Meghan Trainor or some other “it” girl covered it, it surely would.) “I don’t care if people stare / People stare at all the wrong things,” George sings lightly, bursting with happiness, during the bouncy winner of a chorus. It’s hard to believe that the song almost didn’t make the album, but it’s true. A few years ago they tossed it aside, having decided it wasn’t right for the record and they only changed their minds when Kurstin’s wife, who’s also their manager, heard it and said that it belongs on the album.
Perhaps “Will You Dance” is the most immediately infectious song on the album, but it only takes a second listen to become fully aware of just how truly awesome all of its songs are. There’s not a bad seed in the bunch; I could easily write about any of them as highlights. It’s nearly impossible to pick favorites. Opener “Young And Dumb” is a hand-clap fueled number about a young burn out that finds George singing about some of the wisdom that comes with age, which is very appropriate because she and Kurstin are in their forties now. Just don’t hold that against them; these are definitely songs crafted by people who are young at heart.
Now, a few highlights…
“Love, nobody can go without / It’s just our human nature,” George sings somewhat soulfully on the uber-groovy title track. It might be called “Recreational Love,” but the wise song is actually about there being no such thing. Cheers to that.
One of the most fun songs on the album is “Jenny,” a shiny disco ball of a song made with extra, extra sugar. The delicious beats truly sound like they could be from a ’70’s disco number but it somehow sounds modern at the same time, perhaps because the beats are so very punchy. If “Will You Dance” doesn’t get them on the radio then this one certainly should.
“Doctor” finds them in an ’80’s new wave mood with its beaming synth and snappy percussion. If Duran Duran had a female singer, this is what they might have put out circa 1985. “Doctor, doctor, doctor / Give me pills or give me love,” George flirts as she sings, trying to seduce the good doctor. Aside from its wide-eyed and playful vibe, the song packs a mean sax solo courtesy of the popular funk saxophonist Karl Denson.
I doubt The Bird And The Bee would play at your next sunshiny pool party, but you should certainly have Recreational Love playing loudly on your stereo the next time you have one. Otherwise, listen to it while you’re driving around the beach at night or on your way to the latest hip club. Or while you’re playing volleyball in your backyard. At some point in your life, there’s going to be a moment when Recreational Love would fit right in perfectly and you don’t want to be without it when that happens.