Breakup Album Extraordinaire
The Rosebuds’ newest album Loud Planes Fly Low, released earlier this year by Merge Records, feels like a soundtrack to a depressing movie: meditative, moody. And in a way, it is a soundtrack—to bandmates Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp’s recent breakup and divorce.
The band’s first four albums chronicled the couple’s marriage; Loud Planes Fly Low is the product of its dissolution and aftermath, exploring how Howard and Crisp can still make music together as The Rosebuds (with a little help from drummer Matt McCaughan and violinist Mark Paulson).
The low, vibrating tones that open “Second Bird of Paradise” set the album’s melancholic spirit, punctuated by gripping violin lines. The haunting tune keeps coming back, obsessive and brooding. “Come Visit Me” continues the vibe, with Crisp and Howard singing together about separation and the almost masochistic desire to see each other again, “even if it makes it worse.”
But Loud Planes Fly Low isn’t a total downer. “Woods” is an energetic rock song, opening in a driving wave of sound with staccato keys and loud guitar. It’s still dark and agonized, but “Woods” provides a different kind of emotional outlet than the more contemplative tracks on the album.
“Limitless Arms” is airy and atmospheric, with layers of instrumentation floating and echoing around Howard’s breathy vocals. Paulson’s violin provides a nice touch, building into a big orchestral crescendo in the bridge. Yet like much of the album, the song is a little too musically abstract. Loud Planes Fly Low lacks the kind of catchy melodies or hooks that make songs memorable. Many of the songs blend together into hazy background sound; “A Story” and the album’s opening track “Go Ahead” especially fall victim to this.
This album’s strength lies more in its honest, personal lyrics and narrative continuity. “Worthwhile,” the last track on the record, is a distillation of the album’s best features: stripped down and acoustic, with just Howard’s vocals and minimal accompaniment from the strings, it’s sweet and sad, neither dramatic nor overbearing—which is how it should be.