The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low
The sanctity of marriage tells us that couples shall stay together, “In sickness and in health” and “’til death do us part”. The union of husband and wife is a sacred one; vows are exchanged in front of guests and witnesses to give the proceedings not only a celebratory feel but also an audience that can vouch for the authenticity of the proceedings and hold the couple responsible for the promises they make and hope to follow through upon. However, numbers don’t lie, and the U.S. divorce rate is undeniably high. So, what happens to couples? What makes real life set in and sully the promises of life lived happily ever after? The answers vary from couple to couple and situation to situation and the results are rarely pleasant and harmonious for those involved. Typically, the partners go their separate ways and attempt to start anew, away from the influence and pull of the other. Sometimes, though, a marriage is more than just a union of love, it is a creative or skilled collaboration defined not only by personal ties but also by public consumption and interpretation. What happens in the rare instances where a couple decides they can no longer live together as a unit but can continue to work together professionally?
Such is the case of The Rosebuds, the indie-rock darlings of Raleigh, North Carolina, and until recently husband and wife. For the past decade, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, (or Ivan and Kelly Rosebud, as their stage names indicate), have made several albums of gorgeously crafted and infectious pop music that has won them great accolades and affection, particularly here in the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont where they have also served as a kind of King and Queen of the local music scene. News of their split took many by surprise, but like a number of talented and introspective songwriters that have come before them, Ivan and Kelly have taken their unfortunate circumstances and turned them into a work of great art, emotion, and perhaps even catharsis. The result is Loud Planes Fly Low, ten bouncy, yet emotionally stark tracks that acknowledge, critique, and examine the delicately affecting emotions that result from a relationship in crisis.
Several listens to the album illustrate the agony and confusion that Ivan and Kelly are experiencing in their new roles outside of marriage. Their situation is announced early in the album on opener, “Go Ahead” which depicts a world where instead of coming home to each other, they instead wish for imaginary forest to reunite after being expelled from their usual dwellings: “Let’s make a pact/Set a date/Meet back up here at the same place”. In a dreamlike reverie, it’s almost as if Ivan is thinking that maybe after some time, the tides will have turned and things can get back to normal. Later, in “Without a Focus” over a downtrodden acoustic strum, Ivan laments lost chances at reconciliation and mournfully admits that he is lost in this new world; common sentiments for sure to those who are struggling with a devastating breakup, but still extremely wrenching to hear the honesty and sadness emanating from the record. It is new territory where no matter how hard one tries to move on, “perspective ceases to exist”. Elsewhere, there are hints of resignation, Ivan declaring that he is no longer interested in continuing to bring trouble home, as well as definitive statements of finality where both Ivan and Kelly demand that neither should wait for other to come back. However, the longing to connect and the disappointment of their failure to stay together ultimately wins out. They admit that there is “nowhere to hide” and wonder who will “love you if I go”. In a particularly wrenching moment of vulnerability on “Come Visit Me”, Kelly admits that she just wants to “Feel something way out here” and asks her departed to “Come visit me way out here/I need you to save me/Even if it makes it worse”. Heavy and sad sentiments to be sure, but filtered through sunny keyboard grooves, the song sort of hints that maybe things will be okay after all. And these tiny hints of optimism are what make The Rosebuds such a good band. While it’s difficult to find a silver lining in such a declaration of despair, those pop sensibilities that provided great charm on the band’s previous releases remain, proving that although personal differences may have splintered Ivan and Kelly’s marriage, it hasn’t altered the musical partnership. Here is hoping that they find a way to keep that going because the world can be angry and uncompromising. Good art always connects us all with the promise that we are not alone and things can get better. In their direst of times, The Rosebuds ring this maxim true.