Losing love and finding love are equally potent muses, and The Rosebuds are adept at turning both into seriously catchy songs. The North Carolina indie-pop sweethearts got divorced after 2008’s Life Like, and Loud Planes Fly Low is the sound of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp working through their failed past to arrive at a functional future. Making the record was reportedly grueling, but the resultant emotions are the realest felt since the duo’s exuberant 2003 debut, Rosebuds Make Out. “Swooning” and “romantic” might be odd adjectives to use at this juncture, but they still apply in full force.
Even as the lyrics acknowledge where the couple went wrong, they’re often steeped in the fantasy of what could’ve been, painting the sort of idyll escapisms that make love and pop work so well together. On “Go Ahead,” Howard sings of growing a forest kingdom for two where he and Crisp run free by day, and sleep in a pile of her dresses at night. Hopefulness prevails through “Limitless Arms” and “Second Bird Of Paradise,” a pair of darkly cool tracks that push The Rosebuds’ sound closer to Chris Isaak’s mournful rock ’n’ blues.
But Loud Planes Fly Low does get grim, and the first hint arrives with “Come Visit Me,” a down-turned disco track that finds Crisp cooing, “I need something happy now, even if it fucks me up.” On the urgent, Arcade Fire-style arena rock of “Woods,” the sylvan paradise that Howard imagined on the album’s opener is burned to the ground. “Oh good God,” he wails over loud guitars and sharp keys, a noticeable contrast to the creeping ennui expressed on the acoustic “Without A Focus.” And by the final song, “Worthwhile,” the storm has passed, and all that’s left is a man whose voice cracks and fails him as he finally catches up with reality.