When we last heard from Rogue Wave, the long-running Bay Area band headed by Zach Rogue, they were touring in support of Permalight. It was meant to be a comeback but felt more like a goodbye. Six or seven years ago, Rogue Wave was one of the leaders of the gentler school of indie rock. Their humorous, sweet, and melodic songs showed up in the right TV shows and commercials, and they gathered a following by touring in support of Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins. But while their tourmates and peers were ascending to the top of the indie heap, Rogue Wave was sidelined by lineup changes, personal tragedies, and health issues. Now, Rogue (not Rogue Wave, but Zach Rogue) is back with a new project, Release the Sunbird. It may be a solo album under an assumed name, a side project, or the next chapter in his story — he’s not saying.
Whatever it is, the new project is inspired by classic singer-songwriter records of the ’60s and ’70s. The guitars are mostly acoustic, the other instruments sparse, the vocal harmonies sweet, and the atmosphere relaxed. Rogue’s always-gentle voice makes the sublime “A New You” sound like the best Paul Simon song since “The Only Living Boy in New York.”
I don’t want to make too much of the resemblance, though. My one complaint about Rogue Wave has been that even their best songs sound like other bands. But the quirky bits of Sunbird’s music — the parts that don’t sound like a ’60s or ’70s record — sound like no one but Rogue.
Drew Andrews & the Spectral Cities also perform.
RELEASE THE SUNBIRD: Soda Bar, Wednesday, September 28, 8 p.m. 619-255-7224. $12.