Title: Numbers Don't Lie
Artist: The Mynabirds
Album: What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood
Here's another song from the I-have-no-idea-how-this-got-in-my-playlist collection. Led by singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn, The Mynabirds are a "collective of musicians" (according to their website) with close ties to label-mate Bright Eyes, former Pedro the Lion David Bazan and indie darlings Crooked Fingers.
Skimming the band's 2010 debut, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, I found that Burhenn has a penchant for digging in the past and "Numbers Don't Lie" sits firmly in the trench dug by Phil Spector. I'm hooked almost immediately upon hearing the syncopated backbeat that emerges in the piano following a noisy intro of fluty synths and distant footsteps. The harmonic progression that follows is just pure pop of the pre-Fab Four 60s:
Verse (key of E): I iii IV I (2x)
Pre-Chorus: vi iii IV I
vi iii IV V (descending piano fill)
Chorus: IV I IV (descending triplet) I (2x)
My favorite moment comes during the transition from pre-chorus to chorus, where she avoids an authentic cadence by interjecting a subdominant (IV) prior to proceeding to tonic (I). A simple idea but so effective in creating a superb gospel-tinged hook, especially when preceded by the falling leaves piano fill. Second favorite moment is the descending triplet pattern toward the end of the chorus, a detail which contributes to the vintage sound of the track as it hearkens back to a time when quarter-note triplets were all the rage. (not really, but sort of)
This would be enough to make for a good song but Burhenn also includes a nice bridge with a driving four-on-the-floor drumbeat, some choice backing vocals, strings, a detuned piano—it's a nice piece of production and arranging. The song's (and album's) weakness are the lyrics but, to her credit, Burhenn meets every cliché (and there are plenty) with a clever songwriting twist or an inspired tone color. It's a promising debut and I'm very glad I stumbled upon it.