The Rosebuds did a cover of the Salt N’ Pepa classic “Push It’ a couple years back. Featured in Spin magazine recently, the band has been getting more and more recognition for their not-altogether-unique, but ultimately appealing indie pop songwriting. The band is married couple Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp. Based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, their new cd Life Like, comes a year after their last effort, Night of the Furies, which divided fans with its extensive use of keyboards and dance beats.
The opening track “Life Like” drives along with a simple bass/drum backbeat and laconic duel vocals, angled with a tawny guitar riff. The melodic richness is contrasted throughout the CD; the band mix it up, and that variety makes Life Like go down smooth. Sonically the CD sounds good. It’s not overproduced and (thankfully) not compressed beyond recognition. This gives a warm ambiance to the effort, suiting the stripped down music and vocals.
"Bow to the Middle" is snappy, catchy, and a nice slice of pure pop songwriting. The next track, “Nice Fox”, has a compelling refrain: “And it don’t mean nothing at all”, which drops in unexpectedly into a fairly plain guitar line. It's little nuances like this that set this apart from the pack, and really that’s what makes it a compelling record.
Lyrically the subject matter takes on a slightly darker, mature theme that sneaks up on the listener, sitting below the music as a counterweight. “Cape Fear” has the best verse (Holler at me, give me updates / Heard another catfish ate a man / They got a search team going in / Shaky shaky shake all right), while “Border Guards” conjures up the image of a way worn soul yearning for another. A classic plot to be sure, but the angle of immigration gives this track some lyrical wallop (I wonder where you are / did you ever make it through / The desert was a curse / lying still in wait for you).
“Black Hole” has a Mazzy Star-like quality. It’s an atmospheric dirge, drenched in reverb and Gothic-lite. “Another Way In” is a lost Comas song from Spells. Sonically similar, not the strongest track, but atmospheric. There’s only one throwaway track, “Hello Darling”, a muddled mix of country, whistling, and alternative.
Life Like ends with “In The Backyards”. The song has a strong 80’s alt vibe, and like the rest of the CD, it’s thrown together with touches of Alt-country, awash with layered vocals.
After only a few listens, the song really stay in your head. The melodies are sharp. So much has been made of how modern music pales in comparison to the (enter in your favorite music decade here). The Rosebuds prove that there is a ton of great music out there, but it’s not played on radio – you have to searchfor it. And in this case, its worth it.