“…songs so elegantly composed that many could pass for old standards…
Burhenn is as heartbreaking and tuneful as her finest inspirations
while investing her songs with a calm fatalism that sets her apart.”
American singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn is a shape-shifter who can’t sit still. Since 2010 she’s worked under the moniker The Mynabirds, releasing three critically acclaimed and stylistically different albums on Saddle Creek: What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood (2010) and GENERALS (2012), both produced by Richard Swift, and Lovers Know (2015). She has also toured as a member of the Postal Service (2013) and Bright Eyes (2011), helped found Omaha Girls Rock (a non-profit helping young girls find their voices), and in 2013 gave a TED talk based on her “New Revolutionists” photo project, exploring what it means to be a revolutionary woman in this day and age. Before the Mynabirds, Laura was a member of DC indie band Georgie James with Q And Not U’s John Davis, and also put out two solo self-produced albums on the label she founded herself, Laboratory Records.
Through all of her transformations, there’s one thing that remains constant: her voice. She’s been compared to Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Adele. And while her songs might show up dressed in new ways on each new release, they still very much embody Laura’s distinct songwriting style. “I’ve always been most inspired by the songwriter chameleons,” Laura says. “David Bowie, Harry Nilsson, PJ Harvey, Bjork. They play — with their arrangements, their tones, their personas. But when it comes down to it, every song could be strummed on guitar, or played alone at a keyboard. And at the heart of it, they’re storytellers.” Laura is setting out on a full US solo tour this fall, stripping all of her songs back to bare bones, the way they were originally conceived: a piano and her voice.
After touring the world as a member of the Postal Service in 2013, Laura Burhenn took a year to get lost. She drove across the US twice, toured South Africa solo, made her first appearance in London (also solo), and trekked all over Europe with William Faulkner’s words ringing in her ears: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” Finally she found herself in Los Angeles with a suitcase of songs to fill a whole new album.
Lovers Know, The Mynabirds’ third full-length release (released August 7, 2015 on Saddle Creek), was recorded over a yearlong period in Los Angeles, Joshua Tree, Nashville, and Auckland, New Zealand. It’s definitely new territory for Burhenn, forging into 80s, 90s and futuristic soundscapes, recalling Kate Bush, Sinead O’Connor, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and even 90s hip hop and R&B. The album may be loaded with a fresh palette of new sounds (swarms of synths, gauzy electric guitars, and electronic drums), but her brooding, unmistakable voice leads the way.
Whereas her last album, GENERALS, watched from a wide angle to understand the world at a distance, Lovers Know pulls in close. “There’s something about wandering the world over,” Laura says, “that makes you realize how similar we all are – everyone searching for something, so often the same thing: love. It may sound trite, but it’s true. Love – or the lack of it – is the thing we all have in common. It can destroy us. It can break us open and let the light in. And it’s also the thing that can make us sing."