Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave -- who comes through San Diego on Wednesday with his side-project -- has been steadily working on the offshoot, Release the Sunbird, a solo effort that allowed him to figuratively "stretch his wings," which he did quite gracefully with the project's debut, Come Back to Us, which came out in late July via Brushfire Records, a label that holds the likes of fellow singer/songwriting peers Jack Johnson and Bahamas.
Recorded on a whim last summer in Bloomington, Ind., with a collection of unfinished songs, the project had no direction, and you get the sense that it unravelled organically as a result. The record is covered in a thick sheen of rays, playful melodies undoubtedly inspired by being a father. The songs leave you in a peaceful, meditative state. Rogue sings in a near-whisper throughout, the feeling is airy and natural and features slight, distorted percussion; plucked guitar strings; and the sweetened harmonies of vocalist Kate Long. It's got that California aesthetic, a minimalism that was likely in response to chaotic years of touring -- he's bringing it "back home" in a sense. Rogue came back to himself in the quietest of spaces, and these songs play like medicine.
The music is a play on dark and light. Although the guitar arrangements are simplistic, the lyricism suggests something far more complex. Rogue untangles years worth of knots and exposes himself in all of his darkness, emerging out of years as an artist with bruises and souvenirs from the road. Songs like "Why Can't You Look at Yourself?" or "Everytime You Go" vibrate with tension and heartache. On perhaps the best example, "No Light," he sings, "All this emotion/Can't find myself." And the evolution of his band was never an easy ride -- major health issues, death and Rogue himself suffering a brutal back injury. But out of it all, Rogue retained an almost childlike perspective of the world -- and a resiliency that continues to push him forward. This record is a testament to that: the light at the end of the tunnel.
Release the Sunbird, Soda Bar, Sept. 28.