Review Summary: Indie-pop and alt-rock done right, brought to you by some of the finest musical minds in those genres.
Hailing from North Carolina and at times going criminally under-the-radar, it can be quite difficult to fathom that The Rosebuds have actually been around since 2001. In that time period spanning well over a decade, they’ve released five studio albums , one EP, and a Christmas compilation. After spending the past two years working on separate projects, bandmates Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp finally reunited to work with old friend Justin Vernon (ever heard of him?) to produce a sixth full-length studio album. With Vernon on guitar, The Rosebuds were also joined by drummer Matt McCaughan (of Bon Iver) and Nick Sanborn (of Sylvan Esso) to crank out an album that encapsulates many of the best qualities to be found in modern day indie-pop.
The fact that Sand + Silence
was recorded by a close-knit circle of friends helps to explain why this particular record feels so effortless. Almost immediately upon listening, you can visualize the band making these songs together, bouncing ideas off each other and improvising in a way that only musicians with a strong chemistry could. One needs only to cite the breezy, throwback ‘Blue Eyes’ to support the assertion that this is easily the band’s most natural and flowing piece to date. Electric guitars bounce joyously atop a buoyant rhythm, and the vocal melody in the verses push the song to cloud nine. The 1960’s surf-pop feel of ‘Mine Mine’ furthers the cause, serving as a jaunty follow-up to the already inspired and impulsive aforementioned track. Moments like these serve as a reminder of what no-frills indie-pop can be, and they hit you like a cool, refreshing ocean breeze.
Even the darker tracks here ring with a certain optimism. Opener ‘In My Teeth’, for example, weaves in and out the groove created by its harmonious vocals, electric riffs, and upbeat drumming. It should be noted that the band’s optimism is exercised in good taste and with plenty of restraint; they do a splendid job of avoiding the nauseating, sugar-coated glee-pop that plagues a significant portion of the scene. Oftentimes, the weightlessness of the album is derived from an airy, melodic atmosphere. ‘Give Me a Reason’ comes to mind in this case, an early-album find that glides by on a simple beat and a mesmerizing chorus. The Rosebuds implemented a variety of styles to craft Sand + Silence
’s aura – one that is relaxing, infectious, and noticeably self-assured.
Where the album falls short is its creativity. From a band like The Rosebuds, who according to Vernon makes “some of the most important music in the world”, a collection of well-constructed and enjoyable indie-pop tunes rings a little hollow. There’s no imaginative twist – nothing to force listeners to take notice that The Rosebuds and Justin Vernon have joined forces to make music together. It could be partially drawn up to high expectations, but even that doesn’t completely cover up the relative simplicity of the songs on the record. There isn’t an indie fan in the world who won’t swoon, at least a little bit, over the uplifting hoo’s and hums on ‘Death of an Old Bike’ – but when you get right down to it, this album probably should have pried just a little deeper.
All in all, Sand + Silence
is an accomplished blend of rock, indie, and pop. The way it all comes together so readily and smoothly is one of its greatest assets, and it’s certainly one of those albums
that can be enjoyed from start to finish. If you don’t mind sacrificing novelty and experimentation – even if only for a while – to indulge a sweet spot for gorgeous and memorable melodies, then Sand + Silence
will permanently set up shop between your ears. Consider this to be just the revival that The Rosebuds needed.