THE ROSEBUDS: Life Like [Merge]

When Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp debuted as the Rosebuds in 2003, they were cut from classic indie-pop cloth: spare yet spangly and cautiously exuberant. Within two years, they were a full-on “rock” band boasting dark, foreboding arrangements and complex production. By the time of 2007’s Night Of The Furies, they’d gone synth/disco pop in the service of—pomposity alert!—a concept record. The quest for artistic growth is rarely an easy road to travel, and for Life Like, Howard and Crisp are on the move again, only this time it’s a case of a few steps forward, a few backward and a few sideways. It’s tempting to call this their shoegaze record, as indelible images of Slowdive (the dreamy washes of keyboards and reverbed guitars), Lush (the vocal harmonies) and Ride (the teeth-rattling energy) abound, particularly on “Another Way In,” which overlays all three templates to breathtaking effect. Typecasting is risky, though: What to make of the acoustic-guitar/upright-piano-powered Americana of “Nice Fox,” the gloomy, Church-meets-R.E.M. title track or the Brit-bouncy C86 janglefest that is “Bow To The Middle”? By drawing from their past and crafting intriguing sonic hybrids rather than self-consciously aiming for some dubious new turf, the Rosebuds have, accidentally or not, wound up with their most satisfying album yet. []

—Fred Mills