Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, the latest album from L.A. duo the Bird and the Bee, is a continuation of the methods that the band has perfected over the last several years. Inara George’s milky-smooth, Feist-like vocals are set to Greg Kurstin’s cloudy dream-pop and jazzy time signatures, which sounds just as good on record as it does on paper. George uses her uncommonly strong presence to stay in firm control of the album by committing to her role as frontwoman without becoming steeped in the overt sexuality or the predictable vulnerability that can sometimes be associated with a prominent vocalist who happens to be easy on the eyes. Kurstin’s work behind the boards possesses all of the vintage chamber-pop signifiers, intriguing electronic jazz variations, and sleek crispness we’ve come to expect from the band. Granted, the album is a little light on hooks, but its overall consistency makes up for its missteps. The snappy, celebratory atmosphere on tracks like “Diamond Dave” is just as effective as the heartbreaking nature of more emotionally charged cuts like album closer “Lifespan of a Fly.” While the album’s sweeping, magical tone coalesces with the slightly more brooding undercurrent of technological malaise, creating something wholly engrossing, it is, unfortunately, a little mismatched in the end. Perhaps executed a tad more carefully than it was conceived, Ray Guns is ultimately a flawed gem.
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