The Rosebuds – Life Like (Merge)
There are a lot of entries in the “couple-core” movement, some more worthy than others. But for my money, The Rosebuds are heads and shoulders above anyone else currently working under that nifty label. As enjoyable as She & Him, Mates of State, and Beach House might be, The Rosebuds have been quietly releasing better records that improve with each outing and with each listen.
The duo’s third album, last year’s Night Of The Furies (review), found them exploring territories of 80s new wave, a move that found some fans questioning the decision while others such as myself felt that such a change was intriguing and successful.
To those that did not appreciate such an approach, you’ll be happy to learn that The Rosebuds’ latest effort, Life Like, manages to hark back to their original blueprint while managing to retain the studio gloss and dark corners of their most recent work.
Husband and wife team Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have put the synthesizers back in the closet for the time being and have created a fully arranged album with landscapes of textured guitars. It’s reminiscent of such 80s luminaries as The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen, yet the lineage to their own past work is quite apparent.
There are enough hooks throughout Life Like to make even the most curious of topics palatable for the most pop-entrenched ear. Crisp and Howard work in tales of man-eating catfish (“Cape Fear”), reanimation (“Life Like”), and Jim Morrison talking to kids via a Ouija Board (“In The Backyard”) with such amazing pop sensibilities that its curious wide they haven’t managed to reach a much larger audience.
Life Like reflects the band’s growth as both songwriters and complex arrangers. It draws from the challenging sidetrack of their last effort and combines it with the infectiousness of their earlier work. It all adds up to an album of such somber beauty that places the couple of the year crown on a pair that has been unfairly overshadowed by lesser duophonic offerings.