The Bird And The Bee’s third album was originally titled Guiltless Pleasures before it became the even less ambiguous Interpreting The Masters, all of which is a pretty strong indication that the synth-pop duo’s album of Hall And Oates covers is executed with little to no irony. And rightfully so; thankfully, the patina of ironic appreciation that once coated the R&B powerhouse seems to have gone the way of John Oates’ signature mustache. Instead, The Bird And The Bee employ a genuine appreciation for Hall And Oates’ unassailable pop songcraft. Since vocalist Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin have pretty spot-on pop sensibilities themselves, it’s unsurprising that their faithful renderings of eight H&O hits are as listenable as their source material. The album’s one original track, “Heard It On The Radio,” which could easily be a long-lost H&O B-side, displays the duo’s grasp of and reverence for their inspiration.
It doesn’t take much of a sonic leap to get from Hall And Oates’ ’80s-era keys-and-synths soul to The Bird And The Bee’s ’00s-era keys-and-synths twee, so Interpreting The Masters feels more like a loving tribute than a creative reworking. But George’s cooing vocals add some extra interest, particularly her sassy take on “Rich Girl” and the mournful “She’s Gone.” It isn’t revelatory, but it’s a natural fit that makes up for its familiarity with listenability and pure fun—no irony necessary.