The Rosebuds – Life Like

The Rosebuds
Life Like

The Rosebuds should be huge. Not in an “everywhere you go, there they are” Coldplay type huge. More like in a Decemberists/Spoon sort of way. It’s difficult to pinpoint why this is when they have everything going for them. Across four albums, their latest Life Like, they’ve built upon an original sound of low-key pop, awash in tides of keyboards and sha-la-la’s, while exploring new and old terrains with great success each time. Maybe they’re not literary or edgy enough. Or the fact they don’t drape their songs in smugness or self referential meta-whatever it is. Perhaps it’s a lack of irony. Unfortunately these appear the things you need to rise to the next level.

The darkness that was so prevalent on Night of the Furies is retained in songs such as “Cape Fear,” sounding sinister but still poppy. Life Like is a classic Rosebuds album, all the aforementioned pieces in place, but for whatever reason it doesn’t catch fire as the previous albums do. It’s perhaps the first that feels as though they’re treading water and that is a very difficult for me to say. I’ve always looked to The Rosebuds to provide an escape from the self serious; to provide a time to feel good without bowing to clichés or current trends. But from the get-go singer/guitarist Ivan Howard announces he’s “found a clean way out” and this is a feeling of despair that runs throughout the album. Even on the uplifting “Bow To The Middle”, a classic slice of foil Kelly Crisps’ “yeah yeah” backing vocals, the verses make reference to being the devil if you dance to his voice.

This however is perhaps why The Rosebuds exist in their own world, where hip doesn’t matter. The pair are far too humble, honest, and, well, to borrow a common phrase from this election season, folksy, to be caught up in the snide indie world. Songs about the devil and a tender ode to the passing of a neighborhood fox could only come from an area such as North Carolina, where the band resides. And only could they take a vintage record with Howard’s grandfather singing and not make it sound like an ironic trick. It’s one of only a few moments on Life Like where there is a profound celebration of life, one that was known as their stock in trade. Howard supplies some acoustic M. Ward style guitar overtop of a scratchy record, which I imagine to be one of those heavy duty slabs of vinyl, played on an old Victrola, and builds upon that with some joyous whistling.
Before they wander too far off the tracks the albums’ closer “In The Backyard” brings us back full circle, a wonderful song that could fit on any of their previous albums. It also stands as a perfect end piece to wrap the album back to the beginning. Life Like may not beg for repeated listens as much as Birds Make Good Neighbors but it’s still an honest and original piece of work that is sorely needed in these times.