Album reviews: The Rosebuds, Bon IverBy John Wenzel | June 21st, 2011 | 1 Comment »
The Rosebuds, “Loud Planes Fly Low” (Merge)
Failed relationships often provide choice musical inspiration, but what happens when the folks splitting up choose to continue making music together?
Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, the steady hands and voices behind North Carolina indie-folk-dance act the Rosebuds, got divorced after the release of their last full-length, so it’s no surprise their fifth album, “Loud Planes Fly Low,” exhibits a lot of aching sentiment and barely healed wounds. Lots and lots.
The scars are immediately visible on laconic, melody-drenched tracks such as “Go Ahead” and “Second Bird of Paradise,” Howard’s vocals and tight, chiming chords drawing the listener into his dreamy and disorienting world, with help from Crisp’s ominous synths. “Second Bird,” in fact, could pass for a straight-up dance track — if most dance tracks were crafted by David Lynch after he downed a couple carafes of red wine.
The production liberally doles out reverb to reinforce the otherworldly feel, making the laser-focused songwriting feel more expansive. Indeed, the keening “Woods” and spare, crushing “Without a Focus” are high-water marks for a group that has sounded adrift in pleasant yet bland songwriting for its past two albums. And “Woods” represents the band at its best: focused melodies, impassioned vocals, roller-coaster dynamics and an overall poetic darkness that never feels forced.
“Loud Planes Fly Low’s” potentially cliched “breakup album” back story — from the divorce to the fact that early versions were written, recorded and scrapped — never overwhelms the songs’ relatability. It’s a powerful listen even without that knowledge, but it still bestows a certain immediacy to the gorgeous debris of the band’s biggest emotional cataclysm so far. Highly recommended for fans of the band’s “Birds Make Good Neighbors” album. –John Wenzel
See the Rosebuds at the Hi-Dive on July 16 with Other Lives.
Bon Iver, “Bon Iver” (Jagjaguwar)
Back in 2007 the man who is Bon Iver retreated to his cabin in the Wisconsin woods to make his beautiful beardy record “For Emma, Forever Ago.” With gauzy production and a falsetto from another time, Justin Vernon came off like a mystic soul man who needed to go back to the land to save himself. It paid off in a swelling indie audience and some side work with a guy named Kanye West, who used Vernon’s voice to ghostly effect on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and primed this self-titled sophomore release for crossover potential.
It might happen because the music on “Bon Iver” is so unabashedly pretty and because in the closing “Beth / Rest,” Vernon embraces his inner Bruce Hornsby to point out one possible avenue to soft-rock stardom. And it might not, because on “Bon Iver,” those mainstream roads are mostly not taken, as Vernon prefers to construct gorgeously sung, muted tone poems that are more about getting lost in a lushly melodic dreamland than making linear sense. –Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.