Zach Rogue's namesake wash over us with tune after tune on Rogue Wave's first album in three years.
It's refreshing when a group with as long a history as Rogue Wave are willing to continue exploring uncharted territory on their new releases. The Californian four-piece certainly fit this bill on their sixth album, Delusions of Grand Fur. In a small way, the wit of the album title's pun prepares us for the upbeat sharpness of the record as a whole. Here, Rogue Wave offer an album that's both innovative and approachable.
Delusions of Grand Fur manages to balance clear folk influences with gawking explorations of electronica. Some tracks pull off this juggling act better than others, but more often than not, we're treated to colourful tonal blends.
Take “In The Morning”. Consistent acoustic guitar comps, spacey vocal harmonies and sometimes coarse synthesisers combine to produce one of the album's most developed tracks. At times, the vibe is similar to dream pop. Unlike some artists of that genre, however, Rogue Wave are supported by a sense of purpose and clear instrumental mastery.
If anything, they're a bit too ready to show off their ability for instrumental acrobatics. The opening of the first track, “Take It Slow”, is one such moment when the band probably could've benefited from taking it down a peg to achieve the ambiance they're going for. It's an ambiance that's almost mountainous in its epic, but it has down-to-earth character. No doubt the tight vocal harmonies that the record boasts across the board being pitted against heavy, dry drum work and acoustic guitars adds to this feeling of openness.
At times, the record is reminiscent of the Shins (“California Bride” and “Look At Me” both fit into this category) with the airy vocals of Fleet Foxes. When they leave our heads spinning from the sheer amount of instruments playing on those tracks and others, Rogue Wave make the wise choice of keeping their harmonies fairly simple. They wow us without confronting us too much, and the folk/electronica partnership remains.
Ironically, the first single of the album, “What Is Left to Solve”, is perhaps its biggest outlier. It's more an indie pop groove than a sophisticated genre hybrid like most of the other tracks. Other than that, Rogue Wave are impressively loyal to their juggling act of stylistic influences.
As impressive is the manner in which they cascade further into electronica as the album goes on. The folk is always there, but the cocktail of synthesised sounds on “Ocean”, for instance, shows the group are more than willing to mix up the ratio of their genre influences to maintain the listener's interest.
The same can be said about the chordal choices on “The Last Picture Show”, with its chromatic harmonies and disaffected vocal style. In general, you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into Delusions of Grand Fur. This is true of the well-crafted songs themselves, but also of the fluid trajectory of the album and the powerful lyrical subject matter.
Three years has been a while to wait for Rogue Wave fans, but they're not going to be disappointed by this release. Indeed, this may be the best album I've heard so far this year.