The Lineup

The Rosebuds

Raleigh, NC

Guitarist Ivan Howard and keyboardist Kelly Crisp bring a certain magic to their performances and recordings—that much is undeniable. You might even go so far as to say there’s something wholesome and reassuring in the music they write and make together. Their alluring melodic sensibility shines through, all the more because there’s simplicity to what they do. While each of their four albums for Merge Records has explored different territory ,a particular crispness connect them. It’s not that they’re basic or uninventive, like a three-chord punk band, but that there’s an economy and simple elegance in not trying to do too much, merely allowing the song to come out and play for the crowd.

Howard and Crisp met while in college in Wilmington, and released their debut, The Rosebuds Make Out, in 2003. Arguably their most rocking effort, Make Out surges with energy, hooks and pristine warmth that at times suggest a latter day Buddy Holly (particular on effortlessly peppy tracks like “Kicks in the Schoolyard” and “Boys Who Love Girls”). Birds Make Good Neighbors followed in 2005, bringing new depth and layering to the sound, as well as a more downbeat, reflective tone. There’s still plenty of energy, but it’s mannered and moody, whether in the lost innocence hinted at while playing house in an old “Boxcar” or the Britpop flavored “Shake Out Tree,” which wonders at love’s endurance. For 2007’s Night of the Furies, they dove deep into a darker, dancey tone, informed by ’80s new wave, and then tacked back for 2008’s Life Like, rediscovering some of their earlier stylistic explorations, while offering a dreamier, more textured sound. 

With each release it’s felt like their craftsmanship and control have tightened, while retaining the twinkle in their eye that’s always made them so endearing. Raleigh’s sweethearts are currently recording their fifth LP. —Chris Parker