Being the child of two divorces, I understand what it’s like when a marriage crumbles around you. So, of course, I’d be more than intrigued when The Rosebuds announced that, despite the divorce of Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard, the indie folk rockers would strive on as a musical unit with their fifth LP, Loud Planes Fly Low. However, even with the rich and emotionally impactful source material the two had to cull from, the entire effort feels muted.
Being flat does not mean these songs are bad; in fact, if you measure the offerings on this record by the simple gauge of “was this pleasant to my ears?”, there’s not a disappointing effort among the 10 tracks. Album stand-out “Second Bird of Paradise” is sleek and minimalist, yet the vibe of the track is dark and sensual in its tale of a newly complicated dynamic between Crisp and Howard. What is disheartening, though, is the complete emotional disconnect found in other songs on the LP. “Come Visit Me”, which features an especially enjoyable vocal performance by Crisp, doesn’t make me feel like she’s utterly lonely; lines like “Come visit me way out here/I need you to see me, even if it makes it worse” feel too stunted, as if the sentiment was said because that’s how a breakup should play out. And the only way I can tell Howard sobbed uncontrollably while recording “Worthwhile”, with the heartbreaking-on-paper line “I packed a box of our stuff, so I’ve got nothing to open up”, is by reading about it through Merge Records.
Yes, not every marriage ends violently; some, like that of The Rosebuds, ends rather amicably. But after years of marriage and dedicating yourself to another person, there needs to be some kind of hostility, even if it’s focused into something generally positive. But The Rosebuds instead have limited themselves and recorded an album that’s generally good while being limited in its emotional scope and thus utterly disappointing in the long run.