Don't be fooled by delicate packaging: formerly sunny pop-sters' sophomore effort tells tales of insecure love and childhood secrets.
Earlier this summer, I went to see Teenage Fanclub, and the Rosebuds were opening. Though I missed most of their set, I looked forward to hearing their album. I imagined their sound to fall in the same category as Teenage Fanclub's Byrds-esque traditional, harmonic pop. At first, it did. Sick of boring indie rock, I was unenthused. I was tired of pretty liner notes featuring bare-bones sketches and sweet, love-y, '60s-inspired songs. But after a few listens I realized that Birds Make Good Neighbors was much darker and more complex than that; the '60s sound and children's book packaging were just details.
The Rosebuds are husband and wife Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard. Based in North Carolina, they released their first album, The Rosebuds Make Out, in 2003. The album established their place as fun, poppy indie rockers with an ear for cheerful melodies. Birds Make Good Neighbors is a departure in that it has Crisp and Howard really finding themselves as musicians, and moving beyond the realm of surface indie pop.
The first half of the album is pretty damn solid, and come to think of it, so is the second half. It kicks of with the cool-scary "Hold Hands and Fight", and "Boxcar", which has a hint of Britpop. Howard sings in his smooth style, "I know you feel like we can't go inside / We can talk in private here / Tell me of how things used to be / But I'm not crazy I'm just a little boy / And you're not crazy you're just a little girl". The whole opening of the album has a driving, ominous feeling, like running fast away from danger with your life flashing before your eyes. It builds through "Leaves Do Fall" and "Wildcat". One of the best songs on the album is "The Lovers' Rights", instantly ear catching in its bouncy delivery. This is where the album loses some of its mystery, however, and though the detour of "Blue Bird" is a fantastic and beautiful one, the dark atmosphere is sacrificed.
There is a bit of breezy '60s pop here, and though it is definitely catchy, the dark tremolo found on the other tracks is simply more interesting. The album gets a little sentimental toward the end, and though "Shake Our Tree" is a good time indeed, "Warm Where You Lay" is a bit jazzy and a bit much. But the Rosebuds have provided something that many indie rock bands don't: an interesting, unique record. Sure, it won't change the world. It probably won't even make "best of" lists. But listen closely and you can hear the subtlety and finesse it took to create this album. Forget the boring genre and the lightly sketched birds on the liner notes; this one's worth it.