It was recently announced that the late Elliott Smith's last record, From the Basement on the Hill -- the album that he worked on for over three years and was ultimately unable to complete to his satisfaction -- is being assembled by Smith's friends and will be released in October. Of the few songs that have been leaked from these sessions, both sides of Smith's musical personality -- the sparkling popster and the moody gloom merchant -- are represented.
For those who fell in love with the hook-handy Smith, consider San Francisco's Rogue Wave an excellent stand-in. The band mines the same rich valley of California pop that influenced Smith and countless others -- and does so with enough invention and variation to dispel naysayers. Leader and namesake Zach Rogue (née Schwartz) has a wonderful, hollow lilt to his voice that snakes its way around his hazy lyrics while ultimately surrendering to the sway of melody. This sway, coupled with Rogue's convincing swoon, is so powerful that it even cancels out potential cheesiness. On the opener, "Every Moment," Rogue gets away with lines like "I used to think about you and me forever" without it sounding like junior-high graffiti.
Though Rogue Wave is a full-fledged four-piece these days, Out of the Shadow is largely Rogue's solo recording. And while most of these songs could be performed as simple singer-songwriter acoustic fare, Rogue wisely thickens the mix with layered vocals, ambient noises and peripheral synths. True, these are well-traveled roads, and you won't find too much ground-breaking noise on this record. Luckily, it's such a pleasant experience that you won't mind.