The Lovemakers, Times of Romance <$f$>Catholic Comb, and Ghost Stories (Tie)
Oakland quartet Rogue Wave -- led by blueberry-maple-syrup-voiced crooner Zach Rogue and showcasing his bittersweet indie-pop anthems -- cut its teeth at lo-fi, no-frills set-up-on-the-floor-and-play gigs at Oakland warehouse, art gallery, and coffeeshop enclaves like LoBot and Mama Buzz. But there's something to be said for hi-fi, and Descended Like Vultures, the band's sophomore disc, benefits from the heightened exposure and absurdly high-gloss super-producer sheen that tangoing with big-shot label Sub Pop can offer. Tunes like "Love's Lost Guarantee" and "10:1" are simple, elegant bedroom folk odes pumped up to ridiculous extremes of reverb, studio gloss, and high-concept glamour: God's symphonies to teenagers. Thus can a modest, polite pack of Oakland scamps sneak a fist-pumping weeper like "Publish My Love" onto The OC, the equivalent of the Flaming Lips blaring "She Don't Use Jelly" on Beverly Hills 90210 back in the day, just with a catchier tune and a much, much, much better lead singer. Vultures is twentysomething ennui pumped up to Grand Canyon scale, both awe-inspiring and plain ol' inspiring. Publish your love.