There are periods where I listen to melancholy music exclusively. For these occasions, I have a few go-to bands, but Rogue Wave definitely tends to make it into my rotation more than most others. Their music has more of an ominous tone; it can be a little unsettling while also very contemplative. But the depth that they reach is something that’s rare among music today and something that continues to draw me to them time and time again.
Rogue Wave is the brainchild of musician and vocalist Zach Rogue, who single-handedly wrote and recorded their first album, Out of the Shadow, in 2002. The composition of the band has changed over the years, with drummer Pat Spurgeon, who joined right before the tour for the band’s debut album, as the only other consistent member of the band. Their style is a mellow and poetic alternative rock with lots of folk influences. Over their 10-year and four-album career, their style has evolved from an incredibly under-produced, raw indie-rock sound to a more electronic, pop-rock exercise in innovation.
Out of the Shadow
The band’s first album sounds completely unprocessed and incredibly pure. Up-tempo and decidedly folksy, their debut effort captures Rogue’s ability to portray unexpected emotions. Some standout tracks include “Nourishment Nation,” a song that fits perfectly with the album’s style. “Kicking the Heart Out” shows Rogue’s talent in conveying an acute sense of unease and unnerve without scaring away his listeners.
Descended Like Vultures
Rogue Wave’s style didn’t change substantially with their second album, but Spurgeon’s additions to the creative process are easily noticed. A little darker than its predecessor, the vocals and messages of the 2005 album are slightly less convoluted. Although it’s still full of strange lyrics, its dark tone is much less uncomforting and instead comes across as music born from depression.
“Love’s Lost Guarantee” and “California” are two of my favorite songs of all time. Both are somber but have an incredible power to them that help distinguish the band. While retaining the dark and grimmer edge of the album, they’re not depressing. Instead, they’re both uplifting in a strange, unique way.
“Publish My Love” is another standout, full of harder and edgier rock guitars with echoing vocals and powerful drums.
Asleep at Heaven’s Gates
You may have heard “Lake Michigan,” the lead single from this 2007 album, in those Zune commercials about six years ago. A great, percussive track, it shows the band’s departure from melancholia to a more joyful sound. This isn’t the case for every song on this album, though.
“Chicago x 12” is one of the best songs from this album, and it still has hints of the melancholy folk featured in earlier Rogue Wave songs. However, it is still more upbeat than most of their earlier work, showing the direction the band was heading.
Their most recent release was a huge step musically for the band. On 2010’s Permalight, Rogue Wave embraces pop, and their music gets a lot more fun because of it. “Good Morning (The Future)” is an exciting, futuristic pop song that seamlessly blends computer-generated beats and sounds with electric guitar and rock drums. The bulk of this album’s sound continues this trend, but there are a few songs that show how this band still retains their folksy roots.
“I’ll Never Leave You” is a great example of this; it’s tender and soft while preserving their organic sound. It’s also one of their most straightforward songs, with its lyrics make it obvious that it’s about love. Permalight is the perfect blend of pop rock, electro-pop and folk music, and it shows just how much this band has grown over the years.
Zach Gordon is a sophomore in the College. LIFE PLUGGED IN appears every other Friday in the guide.