Hearing Laura Burhenn wistfully recount the recent past singing, “the sun was so pretty, we couldn’t look away” on “Golden Age” from her latest The Mynabirds LP, Be Here Now, feels particularly poignant writing this on 21 August, as the U.S. will be experiencing its first solar eclipse in decades.
Mother Nature has done Burhenn a solid on her sun metaphor today when the sun, in these times of Trump, will be both so blinding we won’t be able to even look at it and then will disappear altogether leaving us in darkness. Such is life right now, as Burhenn points out throughout Be Here Now, as we live constantly live on poles of either glaring intensity or dark vacancy and try to work out how to interact while searching for something in between.
Revisiting sociopolitical matters after 2015’s inwardly personal Lovers Know, Be Here Now blends that album’s pensiveness and its predecessor’s, Generals, biting commentary. Even within the same song, on the stately piano ballad “Golden Age”, Burhenn humbly offers “a thermos of coffee and cups to share” to anyone looking to work out troubles wrought on them by the current administration while at the same time boldly admitting that even she “could punch a Nazi in the face.”
Elsewhere, Burhenn vents her frustration at feeling voiceless in “Shouting at the Dark” and insisting she’s just as prepared to throw caution to the wind for beliefs as her detractors on “Ashes in the Rain”. Musically, the opening couplet of the title track and “New Moon” show Burhenn stretching out with the added accents of a gospel choir and riotous saxophone breakdown, respectively, though she doesn’t carry either through the remainder of the album.
As tempting as it is to wish Burhenn would have traveled down those roads further, her synthesis of the synthpop arrangements she introduced on Lovers Know and the danceable melodicism from Generals remains supremely satisfying. While expressing continuous reactions of “F this S” at every Trump-related headline and feelings of wanting to curl up in a ball and sleep it off are natural, Burhenn shows us one of the best ways to work through it all is to grab some backlit floor tiles at the closest disco and dance it out.
The opening line of “Shouting at the Dark” sums up Laura Burhenn on Be Here Now best, “I’d rather have cuts on my knees than blood in my mouth from biting my tongue.” Burhenn would undoubtedly prefer the circumstances for getting back together with us be different but, either way, the world is an eternally mercurial place and Be Here Now captures the restlessness of an artist who wouldn’t want it any other way.