CATCH THE WAVEEach year, there are dozens of albums released that never seem to attract the audience they deserve. Chalk it up to any number of reasons--the label didn't back it financially; it's a bit too esoteric for mass consumption--but just ask any true music fan what their favorite albums are from last year, and they'll likely name one from a band you've never heard of. One of my favorites from 2004 is Rogue Wave's Out of the Shadow.
If you've heard, or even heard of, San Francisco's Rogue Wave, you're one step ahead of the game. Rogue Wave began as a solo project for multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Zach Rogue, who plays just about everything on Out of the Shadow, with help from a few friends. Recorded in January 2002, he originally released the album in a limited-edition run on his own Responsive Recordings imprint, but it didn't take long for uber-indie Sub Pop to take notice. They re-released a slightly updated version of the album last July, a move that should have attracted more attention than it did. By that point, Rogue Wave had morphed into a full band, mostly for touring purposes, it would seem. But Out of the Shadow is no mere bedroom-recorded vanity project; it's a gloriously produced platter of pure indie-pop.
The most apt comparison of the band's approach is to current labelmates and former tourmates The Shins (who, in contrast, have received the album sales that have proven so elusive to Rogue Wave). But figure in the fact that The Shins embrace all forms of pop, and you get the feeling that, rather than Rogue Wave aping The Shins' sound, the two bands' record collections look rather similar.
Out of the Shadow is clearly influenced by the infectiously pastoral pop songs of The Kinks and other melody-centric '60s and early-'70s artists of their ilk, but the sound is modernized in indie-rock fashion. Thus, they've also got much in common with the '60s revivalists of the Elephant 6 collective--though, to be fair, Rogue Wave are considerably less precious and actually sound of their era. Best of all, there isn't a single dud to be found on Out of the Shadow. Let's hope that 2005 brings them the acclaim they so deserve.
Rogue Wave open this week for The Album Leaf, the mostly solo project of Jimmy LaSalle, who also performs with The Black Heart Procession and Tristeza. His latest album, In a Safe Place, was anomalous in a couple respects. Rather than recording at his home as usual, LaValle put these tracks to tape during three trips to Iceland, utilizing a lengthy list of collaborators. It also marks the first time he has included vocals on an Album Leaf disc. The result is a quiet, ethereal collection of songs that utilizes minimalist production, electronics and a slew of instruments, including cello, accordion, glockenspiel and "avocado shaker." While it may be a fine album to fall asleep to, if you listen to it while you're wide awake, it won't put you to sleep.
The Album Leaf and Rogue Wave perform an all-ages show at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $7. For more information, call 884-0874.
ALL HAIL THE QUEENWanda Jackson's career has taken an upturn in the last couple years, rather impressive for a woman who's been performing for over half a century.
She got her start covering Jimmie Rogers tunes in the early 1950s, yodeling her way onto a package tour that included Elvis Presley. The future King of Rock 'n' Roll convinced her to incorporate rockabilly and R&B leanings into her music (just as he was doing), and by the end of the decade, Jackson was being regarded as one of the first female superstars of country and rockabilly. Her sassy, sexy, empowered delivery eventually led to her own impressive title: the Queen of Rockabilly.
Lest you start thinking that Jackson is a has-been whose voice time has turned to mush, look no further than two recent releases for evidence to the contrary. Her 2003 album Heart Trouble (CMH) was a stunner, featuring collaborations with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Cramps, Dave Alvin and The Cadillac Angels, who will perform as both her opening and backing band at her appearance this week. But the most impressive thing about the album was that it served as testament to the fact that Jackson's voice is, after all these years, still in excellent form.
Further reverence came in the form of a 21-track tribute album issued last year by Bloodshot Records. Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson included contributions from such big-time artists as Neko Case, Wayne Hancock, Kelly Hogan, Jesse Sykes and Rosie Flores, and made its way onto several critics' year-end top ten lists.
Catch the legendary Wanda Jackson at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., Tuesday, Jan. 25. The Cadillac Angels will begin the show at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $10 at the venue or www.virtuous.com; they'll be $12 on the day of the show. For more information, call 798-1298.
ON THE BANDWAGONHowe Gelb had to cancel an appearance by Giant Sand last November due to a family emergency in Norway. While the band plans to make up the date at some point, this week brings a special solo performance by Gelb, which doubles as a benefit for the recent tsunami tragedy. Billed as the Howe Gelb Tsunami Relief Cabaret, the show is an early one and will be a relatively classy affair, with hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, mood lighting and Howe tinkling on a piano.
Witness the high-wire act that is a Howe Gelb solo show at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. A donation of $5 is requested. For further details, call 622-8848.
Fans of Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Covenant, take note: British pioneers Attrition have been performing darkwave since the early '80s, well before it even had a name. Though the duo of Martin Bowes and Julia Walter have flirted with forays into classical and opera over the years, last year's Dante's Kitchen (Underground Inc.) found them firmly back on Goth-rich soil, and was their best received album in years.
Attrition performs next Thursday, Jan. 27, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The all-ages show will open at 9 p.m. with a set by Skin Cage. Admission is $8; call 884-0874 for further info.
On the same night, Calexico will continue their recent string of performances at smaller-than-usual local venues. This time around, they'll grace the stage of Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., Thursday, Jan. 27, with the Nick Luca Trio opening at 9:45 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $12 at the venue or www.virtuous.com; they'll be $14 at the door. That number again is 798-1298.
SoCal punk vets Strung Out have incorporated flakes of hardcore, metal and pop into their recordings in recent years, culminating in last year's Exile in Oblivion (Fat Wreck Chords). This week, they'll headline a bill that also includes Virgin band The Explosion, Evergreen Terrace and Arlington View. It all goes down at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23 at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Tickets are $13; call 358-4287 for more details.