The last album of original songs from pop duo The Bird and the Bee (vocalist Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin) was 2009’s Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, noted for its dreamy dance tracks carried by George’s breathy, demure vocals. The tribute album Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates a year later highlighted the duo’s point of reference for their hallmark blend of pop and jazz. So, it only makes sense that their third original album Recreational Love continues the Hall & Oates influence with leisurely retro-pop. George’s vocals are more soulful but with a playfulness to match Kurstin’s funky layered arrangements. The end result is sweetly eclectic lo-fi music, but it has a very subtle impact. Few of these tracks truly build up to satisfying drops, instead maintaining that leisurely pace set by George’s too-clear and uniform voice for the entire album.

George channels the Hall & Oates love in “Recreational Love,” “Runaway” and “Jenny.” The first two harness H&O’s slow-jam style, which is so suited to George’s ethereal, whispering voice. Restraint is the key with both “Recreational Love” and “Runaway,” and the effect is chilling when George tries to persuade a sexual partner with such a mellow delivery. But “Jenny” is much more energetic R&B, letting George stretch her vocals more than any other song. “Doctor” is the perfect blend of H&O homage and TBATB’s own funk. Kurstin blends a walking synth line with that so very ’80s funk guitar and a saxophone solo to top it off. George, once again, carries a lilting melody, with her airy voice cooing, “Give me pills or give me love.”

On display throughout Recreational Love is that tongue-in-cheek songwriting from the duo. Opener “Young and Dumb” is a glitzy electronic track charting the exploits of a human “wrecking ball” whose friends always knew “would hit the wall.” But just how indebted is TBATB to Miley Cyrus for inspiration? With its hand-clapping and synth effects, the track is full of childish charm, especially when George reaches the “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo” sing-song bridge: “My mama said the very next one/ And you are not it.” That humor seeps into every track, from “Los Angeles,” where George sings, “I’m from L.A. La-la-la-la,” to “We’re Coming Your Way,” when Kurstin follows the line “Is there anyone, anyone out there?” with a star-twinkling effect.

Recreational Love includes earworm after earworm, but enjoyment of the album is entirely dependent on listening closely to the wry lyrics, George’s playful delivery and Kurstin’s synthpop creations. The Bird and the Bee is, after all, a side project for both parties, and Kurstin’s time over the past five years has been spent producing and writing for the likes of Lily Allen, Katy Perry, Pink, Sia and Kelly Clarkson. Needless to say, the 10 tracks on Recreational Love are immensely polished works of pop. But, at times, that is difficult to appreciate when you hear one low-key song after another.

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