• Michael Randall

'Recreational Love' - The Bird and The Bee (2015)

I am pretty certain that by now, through these blog posts and the weekly Spotify playlists being sent out to students, that it is clear I am not really a ‘fan’ of current chart music. The two 'theme' years I have selected for playlists are 2005 and 2010. The 2005 one, in particular, made me feel quite old, when I tried to work out how old many of our students would have been at the time when the Kaiser Chiefs' first album came out.

I do still purchase albums, don’t get me wrong, but these tend to be new releases by firmly established favourites, rather than taking a punt on an album (unless it's a soundtrack). I am sure that if I put time and effort in, I would be able to find some exciting new independent releases to freshen up my collection, and who knows, during lockdown, I may find the time to do so. However, I do have a couple of cards that I can play in recommending a niche band/album to check out, even if my method of getting there is entirely by accident - this is my up-front caveat to acknowledge that by no means am I ‘cool’ in being aware of this week’s music post.

At the moment, the University is, very kindly, saying that Fridays are designated ‘rest days’ for staff, to spend time with their families, and to help look after their well being. This is very much appreciated, but in not having young children to home school/family to meet in a socially distanced way, they can be a little bit boring. At least on Saturdays, I know I’ve got to do food shopping, which involves a round trip walk somewhere, and Sunday is a Skype with the parents/make sure you are prepped for the next week kind of day.

After finding myself a few weeks ago spending the full day horizontal on the sofa, only getting up to put my dinner in the oven, and take it back out again, and then mentally beating myself up about being lazy, I realised I need to try and find a way to mark Friday as a day for something. On Friday, with glorious weather, and having sat on the sofa for a part of the afternoon, I took a walk from my flat, through Festival Park, past the Science Centre, across the Clyde, and up to the Riverside Museum, before turning around and coming back. You, of course, can’t go for a solo walk without a soundtrack. If anyone has any recommendations, for what I should check out, please do let me know.

I ended up listening to two albums on said walk – one was ‘Recreational Love’ by The Bird and The Bee. The other was ‘Love is for Losers’ by The Longshot. Neither of these, from what I can tell, have charted in the UK - another caveat to acknowledge they may be more well-known in other parts of the world. The Longshot is a Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) side project – being a Green Day fan, I was aware of it, so my route in there was following on from listening to one of the biggest rock bands in the world. In 2013, he also released a duets album with Norah Jones, in which they covered Everly Brothers songs, which is very different from his usual material.

However, given the sunny weather we’re experiencing at the moment, I think the more appropriate album (and the one I listened to first on the walk) is Recreational Love. The Bird and The Bee are an American indie pop duo (although I’d say there’s some electronica/dance in there, too - the closest major band I can think they sound like is Haim), consisting of Inara George (The Bird) and Greg Kurstin (The Bee). They have released a series of EPs and albums, with Recreational Love being one of their more recent albums, released in 2015.

So the question is how have I, as someone who is as far away from “there’s this cool indie band you should check out” as it’s possible to be, happened upon them? It’s two reasons: the Foo Fighters, and Poundland.

So why the Foo Fighters? The short answer is that Greg Kurstin was the producer of their most recent album, ‘Concrete and Gold’. Kurstin is an incredibly successful producer in his own right, and had worked with artists such as Lily Allen, Adele, Sia, Pink, Kelly Clarkson and Ellie Goulding (among many others). In the build up to the release of the album, Dave Grohl told stories about how he had suggested to the band/his manager that he wanted to work with Kurstin, and was told he was in too high demand, and that the arrangement came about after bumping into Kurstin on holiday. In his version of the story, he mentions that he was a big fan of The Bird and the Bee, and that the discussion was originally only about their albums.

As for Poundland? When I am in work, if I am catching the train from central station, and I know that I am going to have a bit of a wait, I tend to try and kill a little bit of time by going in to Poundland (there are two around that area) and look at two things – the books (mainly to see if there is anything that my nieces might be interested in), and the CDs/albums. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of music in there that is objectively poor, but occasionally, you find something to pique your interest – whether that is an early 00s compilation CD, which you can spend the next week reminiscing about, an artist where you liked a couple of their songs, or, in this case, stumbling upon an album by The Bird and The Bee. For the sake of £1, it was worth a punt. Equally, there are albums there I paid full price for, which I wish I’d never bought (I’m looking at you, Hard-Fi’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’).

One way this does work, though, is that I’ve gone into an album with absolutely no expectations, never having heard any of the songs, or really knowing what kind of music they make. And it’s a pleasant surprise, which was ideal for Friday’s sunny walk. Some tracks are more upbeat (the single ‘Will You Dance?’), whereas others are more laid back (for example the title track is particularly laid back).

Every album has a duff track (on this one, I hate to say it, but it is ‘Jenny’ – my sister is called Jenny), but overall it’s very pleasant music to do very little to. I don’t have a garden, but I could quite easily sit down in the sunshine and have a Pimm's with this on in the background. It’s worth checking out, and might be one of the best value £1s I’ve ever spent.

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