The Rosebuds Make Out, the 2003 debut from Ivan Howard and his wife, Kelly Crisp, was a remarkable album laden with sugar-coated hooks. Its follow-up, Birds Make Good Neighbors, may be a bit darker than its predecessor, but it’s the best album put out by a married couple since Richard and Linda Thompson released I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight in 1974.
The enchanted hollers of “Hold Hands and Fight” mimic the us-against-the-world atmosphere induced by such ’80s alt.rock acts as Midnight Oil, and the bittersweet “Boxcar” merges ’60s-style guitar licks with twinkling keyboards. On “The Lover’s Rights,” an Americana sway combines with a Johnny Marr-style staccato.
But the most captivating moments of Birds Make Good Neighbors are when one musician’s vocals are complemented perfectly by they other’s instruments. Crisp takes singing duties on “Leaves Do Fall,” and Howard creeps in with some dark guitar twang, its honky-tonk overtones creating a gothic feel. On the following track, “Wildcats,” Howard gently croons while Crisp comes in with the delicate chimes of her keyboards.
The album’s standout, “Shake Our Tree,” features a delightful and energetic male/female call-and-response. The comradeship and chemistry of that track sum up the vibe of Birds Make Good Neighbors.
Various MP3s, in-studio performances