Release Date: Aug 5, 2014
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
The sixth full-length from Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp is a Rosebuds album only in name. Instead, Sand + Silence might be better understood as the product of a veritable indie super group. While Howard and Crisp still lead proceedings, old friend Justin Vernon takes on guitar and synth duties (Vernon once claimed that The Rosebuds "...make some of the most important music in the world"), while Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn looks after the bass and Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan takes care of percussion.
There’s always been a balance in the Rosebuds’ music between intimacy – the feeling that someone is sharing a secret with you – and artistic distance, like that same secret has been propped up on a stage to be analyzed as an object of study. Their songs seem to acknowledge the way music puts us at a remove – it’s Life Like, as one album title put it, but not life. There’s a relationship between that countenance and their recurrent stylistic shifts, the sense that they’re continually shading their music from a different direction.
Review Summary: Indie-pop and alt-rock done right, brought to you by some of the finest musical minds in those genres.Hailing from North Carolina and at times going criminally under-the-radar, it can be quite difficult to fathom that The Rosebuds have actually been around since 2001. In that time period spanning well over a decade, they’ve released five studio albums , one EP, and a Christmas compilation. After spending the past two years working on separate projects, bandmates Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp finally reunited to work with old friend Justin Vernon (ever heard of him?) to produce a sixth full-length studio album.
The notion that time heals all wounds is ultimately false, but the passage of a few years does make the pain less vivid, which is borne out on the Rosebuds' sixth album, Sand+Silence. Released in 2011, Loud Planes Fly Low was recorded in the wake of the divorce of the group's founders, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, and it wasn't hard to hear the tension and heartbreak lurking in the songs. Three years later, the Rosebuds sound a bit dour, as they so often do, but the edge of disappointment has faded, and a faint hope has returned on Sand+Silence's 11 songs.
For a band that specializes in relatively straightforward indie pop, The Rosebuds have thrown some curveballs in their 13-year career. In 2012 alone, Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard released both the left-field Sade tribute Love Deluxe and a festive album full of holiday songs called Christmas Tree Island. Even more, the North Carolina duo proved their tenacity by keeping The Rosebuds afloat after divorcing, resulting in 2011’s Loud Planes Fly Low.
These days, the Rosebuds sound like a band out of time. They made their debut in 2003, long before their (former) label Merge Records began celebrating anniversaries and even longer before North Carolina was lousy with amazing bands rethinking local and regional musical traditions. During their first decade, they seemed more like one of those boy-girl indie-pop bands, like Mates of State or Georgie James, who were more upbeat than catchy.
I remember seeing Rosebuds for the first time, opening for someone at a big club, around eight years ago, knowing nothing about them. But they instantly struck you as a complete, effortless package of songs, looks and stage presence. A fetching couple fronting a tastefully forceful band, porch-pop played with a hint of Serge Gainsbourg-like suave, and the innate, suspicious, Southern “charm” of their North Carolina homebase.
The Rosebuds Sand+Silence (Western Vinyl) If Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp's fifth long-player, 2011's Loud Planes Fly Low, charted the death of a marriage – the North Carolina couple divorced in 2009 – its follow-up signals the birth of separate-but-equal lives. Co-produced by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Sand+Silence is all forward progress, from the "we can both feel alive" sentiment of the title track to the pop portent of "Mine Mine Mine," which sounds like Howard staking a claim. In fact, Crisp isn't much of a presence here, showing up primarily in a supporting vocal role while Howard, Vernon, and other musicians take the wheel.
The Rosebuds take an unusual turn on the cryptically titled Sand + Silence, seeming to draw on former pop precedents in ways that are, by turn, both charming and occasionally challenging. Their fondness for emulating icons of an earlier era isn’t altogether unexpected, however; past contributions to tribute albums for the Cure and the Pixies show they find reverence a relevant factor when it comes to sizing up their sound. Still, this approach can carry risk.