Rogue Wave is a band inappropriately named. They take their nom de plume from a certain oceanographic phenomenon in which large, dangerous waves arise out of nowhere in the middle of the ocean. It’s better to divorce the band’s name from the freak seaward occurrences because if such a phenomenon is meant to conjure up ideas of the sounds on Nightingale Floors, such a title fails. There’s nothing too big, surprising or out-to-sea strange about what’s contained here, but there’s no doubt the record still succeeds.
The record opens with “No Magnatone,” and its synths wash up on shore slowly and foreboding, the guitar riffage then appearing like a ship out on the horizon. It’s always enjoyable when a band starts out a record this way, as a signal to an upcoming journey. There’s something about the soft-spoken, repetitive guitar lines that speak to Rogue Wave’s intent on creating sonic voyages for their listeners. The trend continues on “College” which keeps the train running full speed ahead. Tracks like “The Closer I Get” and “S(a)tan” are too dreary and melancholy for their own good. Through the whole album, Zach Schwartz (or Zach Rogue if you so prefer) affects a sort of Jim James imitation that makes a lot of the record’s lesser moments sound like throwaways from a recent My Morning Jacket release.
Rogue Wave lands in a very particular branch of music, the kind of indie rock that’s so accessible and friendly that it sometimes receives scornful glances from the hipster crowd it hopes to please. Like Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses or The Decemberists, the band can’t really sit comfortably in the realm of mainline mellow pop rock, but nor can they claim any sort of unique street cred. It’s why their name sounds so jarring. They don’t lay claim to anything particularly grandiose or surprising, but there’s no doubt the sounds they create are easy on the ears.