Loud Planes Fly Low

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On their fifth album, the duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp find a kind of balance between sonic texture and thoughtful contemplation that makes for a rare achievement, especially given the unavoidable context of their broken marriage before its recording. The swathes of reverb throughout, not to mention the gently glazed keyboards and soft blends of harmony singing and individual crooning, is something that seems both backward-glancing and of its intentionally imperfect time. But Loud Planes Fly Low captures fragmented moments instead of formless dreams and random wishes: the melancholia that lingers throughout feels like one of experience rather than self-conscious ennui. "Go Ahead" starts the album beautifully on this front, the slow build into a cymbal-heavy conclusion achieving both drama and resolution on a musical front, all while Howard's voice singles out details from a fractured past with a calm, cutting intensity. With that as a strong starting point, the album flows through its ten songs touching on familiar enough touchstones; blissed-out dream pop gentility, early Slumberland-style indie pop, a kind of swooning catchiness that many bands from Scandinavia seem to easily make their own. The best summary of this all might be "A Story," a lengthy, driving number that hints tangentially at the Cure's majestic mood piece "A Forest" not only in title. There are other twists as well -- "Without a Focus," with its rough acoustic introduction and Howard's quavering croon, suggests both T. Rex and David Garza in its gentle passion, while the sentiments on the closing "Worthwhile" look back on a past and hope for a future memory in considered, often surprisingly concrete fashion. The embrace of understated dance-rock on "Come Visit Me," Crisp's first lead vocal on the album, is one of many points that keep things from simply being contemplative. There's a sense of energy kicking up and out, a kind of frustration bursting out (suggested in part by that song's chorus containing lines like "I need something happy now").

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