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What happens when music combines with, or becomes, a call for revolution? The Beatles, the Byrds, Dylan, Gaye, Stevens and many, many more would all agree; the world begins to change, however incrementally small or exponentially large.
“Songwriters who whittle complicated issues down to a simple, memorable melody, put their finger on the zeitgeist of a moment — that’s magic,” says one woman standing in their footsteps. Nebraska-based photographer and singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn attempts to join the company of these highly regarded protest-prone musicians in her sophomore album, Generals. As the front-woman of the Mynabirds, Burhenn’s second album could be considered both a work of art and a call to action.
With heavy stomps, hard-hitting claps and grainy, melodic vocals, Burhenn mirrors Florence + the Machine in some tracks and Thee Oh Sees in others. The album could easily be playing in the background of a dirty, hipped out party in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Although Burhenn’s Cat Power-like melodies and low tone stays consistent throughout the album, the style changes greatly track-to-track.
While “Mightier than the Sword” finds Burhenn’s voice alone with soft piano chords and background harmonies, the next track, “Body of Work”, brings on heavy percussion, tambourine, and electric beats. But to Burhenn, it would be wasteful to treat “Generals” as a background hipster soundtrack. The message is in the lyrics, just as the power is in the marching beats and rebel-rousing claps.
Take the first single off the album, which shares its title. The idea for the name “Generals” was sparked from a Richard Avedon photo entitled “Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution”. While the photo itself shows upper-class women decked out in pearls and fancy dresses, Burhenn rejected the idea that real change can ever come from staying seated and keeping clean.
“Calling all my generals/my daughters/my revolutionists,” she sings in the track. “We got strength in numbers/and they’re gon’ to pay.” As she calls for her generals to get their black boots, marching drum and war paint, she is embodying historical female leaders by acknowledging a modern army of knowingly powerful women.
“Literally getting everyone on the same wavelength is powerful in and of itself,” she told radio-nowhere.org. “And if you tune your musical and artistic wavelength to something positive, it starts to resonate. And it physically manifests itself in the world into positivity all around.”
And with this album did come a movement. Check out www.thenewrevolutionists.org to see what Burhenn has created. You will see a yearbook-style page of female portraits, and with a click of a face comes a personalized description of that woman. It includes her passions, her words of wisdom, her inspirations and what she fights for. “Women who stand up to injustice are rarely pristine; they get their hands dirty,” the website says.
Generals hit stores last week, and the beginning of a summer-long and countrywide tour has commenced. Unfortunately, there is no scheduled stop here in Boston, but they’ll be at New York City’s Mercury Lounge on June 22nd.
The newly released video for the album’s single, complete with a kickass choreographed dance number, is now available online. An album, a video, an online revolutionary movement – Burhenn’s work has the capability of inciting even the most sedentary soul.