Are duos especially well suited to exploring dualities in music? Is there something about having two people creating music together that channels and augments its capacity for exploring yin-yang properties such as darkness vs. light, happiness vs. sadness, triumph vs. loss? That’s a paper for another time here in my virtual degree program in the Serious Pop Music Studies Department. For now I’ll simply note that the Rosebuds, a Raleigh-based duo, have a deft way of conjoining the ominous and the bouncy, which do not typically co-exist. (I noted this in fact a few years ago, complete with grad-school theorizing on a slightly different topic.)
It’s the bass-heavy, minor-chorded intro that manages the trick. This kind of deep, minor-key music is typically slower if not downright thudding and yet here it snaps along at a toe-tapping pace. The beauty of the juxtaposition is that you don’t even notice it (except that I’ve gone and pointed it out) even as it is one of the song’s primary enticements. Another is that poignant leap up in the melody of the chorus, a full five intervals at the end of the line, first heard at 0:44. It’s unexpected enough to stand out and yet natural enough to feel as if you’ve anticipated it half a moment before it arrives—great hook, in other words. A bonus is how the melody reflects the lyrics, which at that moment imply crashing waves. Note how the second half of the chorus features the melody without the end leap, with different lyrics.
An opaque view of 21st century globetrotting, “Secret Life of the Rosebuds” has been around for a few years, previously available on a tour EP long since out of print. The MP3 comes newly via the Hopscotch Music Festival, happening in Raleigh in early September. The band has been together since 2001, initially as a trio, paring down to Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp in 2007. A new album, their fifth, is slated for a 2011 release.