Rogue Valley – Radiate Dissolve
Modern alternative pop/rock rarely comes as stylized and nuanced as Rogue Valley. They have produced four albums since their 2009 debut and appeared on bills with artists as diverse as Lucinda Williams, Mason Jennings, and Andrew Bird. These appearances opened new avenues for them including placing their music on numerous television networks as well as prominently appearing in the Ben Stiller feature film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The five piece hails from the Minnesota hinterlands and sports a dual vocalist/guitarist attack unique in their musical genre. Despite the presence of two guitar players, the band never pursues six string workouts in favor of melody. The overarching template for the band’s music is an anagram of sonic influences – straight-ahead acoustic driven songs meeting often dense electronic textures, modern tempos and rhythms, plus a strong penchant for complex and often deeply affecting vocal harmonies.
“The Brightest of Stars” opens radiate dissolve with a light, artistic touch. It’s a breezy and layered affair that, despite its relaxed tenor, is obviously carefully laid out. Even if there’s a pronounced sense of deliberateness with Rogue Valley’s material, that never comes at the expense of freshness. “Host” has a little bit of a harder edge than the opener, but much of the same loose mood within a definable structure comes through. Guitarists Peter Steven and Chris Koza have an excellent rapport and, apparently, little in the way of ego. “Bury Your Heart” is a much tenser affair than what the album has hitherto prepared listeners for, but the shift in mood isn’t so jarring that it will turn people away. Instead, Koza’s brooding vocal and the condensed, streamlined instrumental attack gives this track a considerably different flavor than other entries on radiate dissolve. “Loom” is its sister song, in that regard. No other track on the band’s latest release so obviously reaches for something new – it is a bracing fusion of a few different styles, but rather than sounding uneasily shoehorned together, the disparate styles actually complement each other in surprising ways.
“Transference” is another peak on the album. The band’s thoughtfulness as songwriters really comes across in this song and the lyrical inventiveness is quite memorable. It has the same ambitious flavor spiking earlier tracks like “Bury Your Heart” and “Loom” while retaining the same surprising accessibility. “Blood Moon” has a pleasing pop spring primarily derived from its percussion and percolates along nicely. The dual vocal performance is quite strong and evocative. One of radiate dissolve’s harder edged moments comes with “Cold Windows”. It is one of the few examples on the album of Rogue Valley utilizing dynamics common in rock music – the gradual shift in tempo certainly sends the song into another gear. Rogue Valley ends the album on a grandiose high note with the title track. It embodies all of the band’s signature elements whilst providing them more than the customary space to stretch out musically.
radiate dissolve is an album with immense melodic charms, but the conceptual ideas and playing driving the songwriting are equally exceptional. The twelve song collection lacks any meaningful moments of real filler and, instead, will consistently impress many listeners with the chances, big and small, it is willing to take.
9 out of 10 stars.