The Rogue Wave’s as-yet-unreleased latest album, Descended Like Vultures may not be the next Imagine. For that matter, it may not even be the next Transatlanticism, but such is the all-too-often-faced quandary of pop music today. Mixing indie sentiments with crunching guitar riffs and hiccupped vocals is by no means a delve into uncharted music territory at this point in the game, but it hasn’t stopped the Rogue Wave from making a delightful record chock full of emotional quirkiness.
Drawing comparisons to the likes of Death Cab, the Shins and the Decemberists, the Rogue Wave seems content to pound out a discography of hopeful, damn-near dainty recordings that pay homage to their contemporaries and fit nicely into that ever-burgeoning indie pop genre. Still, the band manages to blend their brand of catchy exuberance together with simple melodies and whimsical lyrics for an 11-track adventure that makes the casual listener curious to see what else they might have up their collective sleeves. The dance-y, reverb-heavy “10:1” screams of one of the more zany cuts off of Chutes Too Narrow while the achingly uncomplicated “Temporary” carries with it a twinge of Iron and Wine’s trademark solemnity. The soft acoustics of “Salesman at the Day of the Parade” are reminiscent of an early Simon and Garfunkel as frontman Zach Rogue apologetically soothes, “It’ll be alright/ I’m so sorry for what I’ve done” in such a manner that makes us truly want to believe him.
Never ones to capitalize on the extravagant, Descended Like Vultures does a marvelous job of flirting with grandiose compositions even as it capitalizes on the band’s ability to pen the understated. The decidedly country twang of “Medicine Ball” works in direct contrast to the album-opening lo-fi gem “Bird on a Wire,” quietly showcasing the Rogue Wave’s ability to straddle genres and experiment with the formula so artfully established by their label-mates and predecessors.
While Descended Like Vultures can’t promise to catapult these Oakland-dwellers to mainstream success, it does stand alone as a melodic, almost therapeutic listening experience. If nothing else, the Rogue Wave does an impressive job of making us remember why we cherished bands like this in the first place, allowing us to relish in the whimsically eccentric long before Natalie Portman gave us the OK to do so.
[Aly Comingore sure can bake some mean cupcakes.]