Birds Make Good Neighbors

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The Rosebuds' first album, 2003's The Rosebuds Make Out, was a fun album, indie rock at its most lighthearted and breezy. In the time since then, the duo of vocalist/guitarist Ivan Howard and keyboardist/vocalist Kelly Crisp have discovered subtlety and sadness, it seems. The songs are coated with a layer of almost gothic gloom and smeared with glossy acoustic guitars and clich├ęd arrangements, Howard's vocals (one of the bands' strong points) sound detached and morose for the most part, and the band seem to have sacrificed their freshness and spark for a misguided attempt at emotional heft. On Birds Make Good Neighbors, the unbridled punch of the first album is pretty much gone, as instead the band have opted for a layered and adult sound with loads of the aforementioned acoustic guitars, lounge-y electric pianos, and cottony reverb to match the arty and somewhat arch lyrics. Songs about birds, ancient promises, boxcars, and falling leaves may sound good in the hands of someone like Nick Cave, maybe, but in the Rosebuds' grip seem ill-fitting. The band sounded much more at ease on their first album and the more subdued yet still energetic and light EP (2004's The Rosebuds Unwind) that followed, much more energetic and focused. That's not to say that there aren't some fine songs here like the rollicking "Hold Hands and Fight," "The Lover's Rights," which bops along like an indie rock take on Motown, and the pounding and peppy "Shake Our Tree" to name a few. Unfortunately, the forced and false-sounding songs outnumber these bright spots by a wide margin. In a sad trade-off, the band's desire to make a more emotionally powerful and thoughtful record has sapped their strengths and partially ruined what was good about them (their high energy sound, their gleeful innocence, and their knack for sharp and catchy hooks) to begin with.

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