Loud Planes Fly Low
Contrary to popular musical opinion, breaking up is NOT the hardest part – it’s staying together. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp formed the Rosebuds after meeting in college, and along with their creative partnership they also managed to entangle romantically, joining such achingly cute groups as Mates of State, Johnny and June Carter Cash and to an extent, the White Stripes. However, it was not fated to last, and Howard and Crisp divorced shortly after releasing their first Merge Records album, Life Like, in 2009. Their union might have been over, but their music-making must go on. Their latest, Loud Planes Fly Low, is a pretty, indie-tinged break-up letter to everyone at once. The heart of the record indicates that while the band may not be emotionally connected, they will remain together for “their kids;” their fans.
Opener “Go Ahead” is a perfect encompassing of what to expect: it begins softly, with Howard singing about wanting someone to be his world, but the song slowly devolves into a sonic crumble, with echoey, thick guitar lines ramping up as he sings about multiple letters being left where he can find them. In a brief moment he’s segued from a loving personal encounter to a distant, hopeful request- it’s subtle, hurtful and sublime at the same time.
“Waiting For You” features a country-tinged acoustic guitar line, with Howard’s bleeding heart slipping out more than usual, begging the song’s subject to let him be, as he painfully croons, “I don’t wanna have it all/ I don’t wanna bring the trouble I bring.” He and Crisp both handle instrumentation and vocals, and their synchronicity with one another is impressive, and also a painful reminder of what the album’s attempting. On this track in particular, Crisp’s mournful keyboard line plays parallel to Howard’s straight-line guitar, almost sounding like different sides of the same coin.
Crisp takes vocal duties on “Come Visit Me,” and she sings of things looking for soft places to land, beginning to delve into the album’s central metaphor – their marriage was a vessel, a powerful one, but it wasn’t always as soaring as they thought. On this album the group is attempting to exorcise the idea that they could have done something, that they should have known sooner that they were over, but vessels don’t dip that close for a reason- it’s dangerous to what its flying over. The title seems like an apt description, and is further cemented in the subtle duet singing that overtakes the latter half of the song – as Howard and Crisp harmonize (on different stems and layers), she still sings, begging that “I need you to save me/ Even if it makes it worse.” It’s hard to avoid the clear distinction that this song might have been devised while she was living on her own in Brooklyn, but it even transcends that – it’s about just wanting to feel something from someone, something long gone but never to be forgotten.
“Without a Focus” truly presents the worst and most genuine moment of self-doubt: a defeated Howard asks how he can go on, as a syncopated guitar track struggles to keep up with his flurry of doubt and pain. As hurt and honest as he is, he still manages to keep a wry sense of his wits about him, as evidencd by his lyric, “It’s humbling when I’m here I cannot lie/ I’m humbled here, I mean I’m humbled inside.”
Album closer “Worthwhile” is as hard to listen to as it must’ve been to record. Similar to the White Stripes’ “Your Southern Can is Mine” from De Stijl, though not nearly as violent or forceful, the song is achingly pretty, with a redeemed Brandon sitting, singing alone. While thinking of a box of stuff he sent to Crisp in Brooklyn, (and singing the same lyric), he reportedly began to cry while recording. His plain acoustic strumming and remorseful lyrics are the most earnest they’ve been on the entire record, and as the music begins to swell and crescendo slightly, he and we the audience come to peace with what we’ve heard. As that last strum fades to silence, our hearts are still hurt, still begging for a signal, but somehow just a little bit lighter than before. The Rosebuds didn’t stay together where they wanted to, but they stayed together where it counts, and Loud Planes Fly Low is an album about moving on, about keeping your spirit from being grounded.
by Rafael Gaitan