Rogue Wave's Out of the Shadows was last year's great indie-pop debut--a bittersweet album of '60s-inspired pop ideal for melodists and English lit students who had gone too long between Shins albums. It was the work of one man--Oakland's Zach Rogue (born Zach Schwartz), who recorded the album before even cobbling together a band on Craigslist. Shadows itched with a feeling of quiet discontent despite its bright Beach Boys harmonies, and the delivery was muted, as if Rogue were afraid playing too loud might disturb his neighbors. With Descended Like Vultures, the band--yes, a full band this time--bursts forth with a fuller sound. A blast of distortion cuts through opener "Bird on a Wire" and "Catform" builds to an anthemic chorus, while "California" shakes up the blasts with just the right amount of cello. You can tell Rogue's bandmates (including a former Garland resident, guitarist/keyboardist Gram Lebron) were bursting at the chance to add their own flourishes. The result is an album not only bigger than Out of the Shadows but also a little meaner, more cynical, as if a year of touring left its lyricist with nothing but a gimme cap and a permanent hangover. The album sounds much less like the Shins, by the way--which is surely Rogue's way of getting out of the shadow that has dogged him thus far.
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