The Mumbles

Article Published: Aug. 18, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Mumbles

In a barrage of auto-tuned songs about inane topics and with words elongated to have syllables that don't even exist, music fans are getting the sense that their favored entertainment medium is doomed.

Fear not. Just turn off the radio and find an album from an independent artist. The Mumbles' "Annunciation St." is a good start.

The Mumbles, with a cornucopia of jazz, pop and soul, are one of many artists attempting to come to the saving grace of the listening public. With Keith Burnstein on keyboards and vocals and Ethan Shorter on percussion and backing vocals, The Mumbles are a two-man crew packing enough power to convince sane individuals that new music might still be worth hearing.

Burnstein and Shorter came together in the rhythm section of a Brooklyn, N.Y., hip hop ensemble and moved on in 2006 to a new endeavor they labeled "The Mumbles." Since, the two have honed their "avant soul" style with touring and three short-form releases. Additionally, they transplanted to New Orleans, La., in 2011, absorbing some of the native sound. The Mumbles' development is reflected in their first full-length album, "Annunciation St.," released earlier this summer.

"Take the B.S. by the horns and ride it on and on," declares Burnstein in the album's opener, "Newspaper," setting the stage for an album full of cunning lyrics and musicianship. It's the first indication of The Mumbles' tendency to throw back to eras past. Shorter's backing vocals, echoing the chorus, are reminiscent of 1970s rock. The jaw harp brings a funkiness, which thankfully prevails for the next 45 minutes.

The Mumbles move back a few more decades with the next song, "Old Laces." Piano, horns and banjo mix for instrumentation that could be easily emit from a 1940s radio receiver, but it's hard not to hear a little classic rock Elton John in Burnstein's voice. The music and vocals combine in a final product that is strangely modern.

The mantra "old laces on new shoes" is easily representative of The Mumbles' approach to their work. They borrow heavily from music of years past, whose sounds serve as the securing element of the shoe. Those aged sounds hold together the polished and edgy new product Burnstein and Shorter present. Instead of completely abandoning the past, The Mumbles use it to their advantage. Molded with their contemporary music personalities, the end result is the most magnetic shoe in the entire store.

The Mumbles truly show their souls on the jam instrumental, "Notas Azules." They pull out the Stax - the horns, organ, bass and percussion emulating the style popularized by the 1960s record label.

Already, just three tracks into the album, The Mumbles show an astounding versatility in their approach to song. While horns appear in several songs and Burnstein and Shorter only work with a few instruments, every step along "Annunciation St." differs from the next.

Behind the insanely danceable "Eden," the conciliatory "Livin' with Your Ghost" gives a few minutes to dreamily transition to the latter half of the album. A novelty song, "Saints Win," appears a few minutes later, exhibiting the merriment The Mumbles get out of their music. Vocals are handed over to Ethan Shorter for this song, explaining the reason for the duo's move to New Orleans.

An actual street in New Orleans, the title track, "Annunciation St.," further addresses The Mumbles' southward shift. Bluesy, it begins in an unhurried pace and slowly progresses to reveal the band's jubilant entanglement with the city.

Although they received an abundance of help from other musicians, Keith Burnstein and Ethan Shorter make an arresting statement on "Annunciation St." The album paves The Mumbles' way into many hearts and ears, particularly those that have been on the lookout for something funky and fresh to make its way out of the stereo speaker.

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