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The dreamy acoustic lament lasts just over a minute but in sound and spirit it neatly sums up everything that comes before it. A punchy, deceptively effervescent set of multi-instrumental pop tunes, the Northern California band's latest set represents a giant breakthrough for Rogue and his longtime musical partner, drummer-keyboardist-vocalist Pat Spurgeon. "The record sounds, for lack of a better word, fun," the frontman says. It's an astonishing change of direction, to say the least. Formed by Rogue in 2002 after he lost his tech job and parted ways with the Oakland rock group Desoto Reds, Rogue Wave has a reputation for crafting classic, inward-looking pop songs highlighted with psychedelic guitars, pastoral sound effects and intricate rhythms. On tunes from the new album like the title track "Permalight" and "Good Morning," however, Rogue Wave steps away from expectations with synthesizers that simultaneously sound brittle and blissful. "Stars and Stripes" builds on a deep groove before spilling over in a raging chorus.
Then there's the album's unofficial centerpiece, "I'll Never Leave You," a simple acoustic tune that finds Rogue coming to grips with the overwhelming emotions that come with young fatherhood. Like many of the songs on the album it's rooted in Rogue Wave's triumph over seemingly constant peril -- including the tragic death of a former band mate and constant health issues -- and the band's undying determination to push forward.
Making this album was no exception. In September 2008, after the band returned to Oakland following a summer tour, Rogue played a solo show opening for Nada Surf. Two days later, the singer woke up and couldn't move. There was some concern that he might be having an aneurysm or heart attack, so doctors wheeled an X-ray machine into his living room to check his heart and lungs. It turns out Rogue had slipped two discs in his neck, which were pressing on his spinal cord.
"It was the worst pain I had experienced," he says.
Over the next few months, his condition grew worse until he eventually lost feeling in his right hand. Confined to his bed, there was nothing doctors could do for him, no medications that could relieve his pain. "I just felt like I was being tortured," Rogue says. "I felt like I was dying." In January, the pain began to gradually lift, giving him just enough sensation to pick up the guitar and strum it. He celebrated the recovery the best way he knew, by pouring his relief into new material. "When I started writing I wanted to make a record that was a little more up, a record you could move your body to because I couldn't move for so long," Rogue says. "I told Pat I wanted to make a total dance album."
To do that Rogue decided to make a conscious break from the past. "I decided when I picked up the guitar again I didn't want to play anything I knew," he says. He still had to make accommodations for his hand, which remains numb. So Rogue started playing an old Sears Silvertone guitar just because it was the lightest instrument he owned. The guitar set the signature sound for the album. "I would plug that in every day and record little musical thoughts," he says. "After a month I had about 50 ideas for songs."
After trying to get the new songs down in couple local recording sessions Rogue Wave decided to tap producer Dennis Herring, whose previous clients include Modest Mouse and Elvis Costello, to take on the project. Herring brought the band out to his Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Mississippi where they meticulously worked together for four months. Spurgeon says, "Dennis knows what he wants and he'll keep working until he gets it. If he's going to put his name on something it's got to be good." Then one day Costello dropped by the studio. "He told us, `Trust Dennis,'" Spurgeon recalls. "That was good enough for me."
Permalight could represent a great push forward for Rogue Wave. Having toured with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Jack Johnson, Spoon, The Clientele and The Shins, the group already has two indie albums - 2004's Out of the Shadow and 2005's Descended Like Vulture on Sub Pop - which earned it prime soundtrack placement for movies and television shows such as "Napoleon Dynamite," "Heroes," "Weeds," and "Nip/Tuck." Its move to Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records for the release of 2007's politically charged, multilayered Asleep At Heaven's Gate brought critical acclaim and the band's first foray onto the alternative radio chart with "Lake Michigan." The track has also been licensed for the upcoming film "Up In the Air," and was used for a popular Microsoft Zune commercial.
I'm surprised at some of the lukewarm reviews "Permalight" has gotten from other members; this is easily one of my favorite albums ever. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jesse Rose
Pretty good album. The singer sounds pretty similar to Ben Gibbard sometimes which is admittedly a little off-putting. But I really enjoy the albumPublished 24 months ago by Connor Coombs
It took me 4-5 listens before I got it. Now, Rogue Wave is one of my favorite all time bands. Their musicianship is stellar, and simple yet creative. Read morePublished on April 26, 2013 by JLG
Vinyl arrived in perfect condition and sounds great! I love this album from beginning to end and cannot stop listening to it!Published on December 16, 2012 by OSU_ABQ
Not an album review per se, but Rogue Wave is one of the most solid rock(pop?) bands out there. I compare them to Dinosaur Jr. in terms of music I won't turn down. Read morePublished on February 4, 2012 by A. Pattermann
The latest work by Rogue and company is full of nice surprises. This CD is a bit more pop than the last few, but it still contains the quirkiness of their other CDs. Read morePublished on July 6, 2011 by NZEV1962
As a whole, this is a more emotional album. It's not as "pretty" a sound as Asleep at Heavens Gate. It isn't worse, it's just different. Read morePublished on January 27, 2011 by J. Laydbak
Hoping that some older Rogue Wave ends up in the 100 albums for $5 soon. Can't stop listening to it.Published on May 13, 2010 by Allison M. Sequera
I love this album, I mean, really love it. Bon Iver had my 2009 album of the year selection, and this one could of been my 2010 selection, if it did one thing..... Read morePublished on April 26, 2010 by Joseph Jenks