I really hate hipster prima donnas that claim to have liked every band before they got big. You know, the ones that thought Beck’s best album was Stereopathetic Soul Manure. The people that think Pavement went downhill after “Summer Babe.” And the guys who think that Ted Leo “sold out.” Man, I can’t stand those pretentious clowns. But there’s a part of me that sympathizes with those assholes. As much as it makes me happy to see my favorite indie bands finally making a buck, it’s irritating to have to share them with people who gauge artists by how many Grammys they have.
One day, I’m sure the same will happen to Rogue Wave. Right now, I can say that I saw them in a small hometown club before the fine folks at Sub Pop were nice enough to reissue their debut album, Out of the Shadow. And hot damn, were they on fire. They put on an exhilarating show, which I enjoyed without having to fight for a comfortable spot among hordes of corporate radio listeners. But it won’t always be that way. Mark my words, when the public gets a chance to hear Out of the Shadow, this San Francisco foursome will be huge.
Out of the Shadow is the sort of debut album indie fans dream of. Like label mates The Shins (with whom they recently toured), Rogue Wave crafts short but beautiful pop songs that are as smart as they are graceful. Densely layered opener “Every Moment” packs an album’s worth of hooks into two minutes and the Kinks-like “Seasick on Land” carries a delightful amount of bounce with its melody.
But some of the best moments on the album are the more subtle ones. “Be Kind and Remind” is a graceful ballad built on a backwards-played track of what sounds like harmonica. “Postage Stamp World” is a country-flavored tune with some of the album’s most witty, yet smart-assed lyrics: “In this postage stamp world/you can all get in line/and lick my behind.” Two of the longer tracks on the album, “Kicking the Heart Out” and “Endless Shovel” are musically tight without being showy. And “Sewn Up” reveals an infectious chorus underneath layers of reverb and galloping drums.
Rogue Wave is so versatile a band that they could probably make a hit song with any sort of instrument or recording device. But they’ve still got some time before they become as big as current MTV staples Modest Mouse. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a band like Rogue Wave get that sort of fame and notoriety. But in the meantime, I have no problem being selfish.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.