Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven's Gate (Brushfire Records). The indie-pop pride of Oakland, which recently left Sub Pop for Jack Johnson's small and surf-friendly Brushfire Records, issues an excellent, dramatic third album about the mysterious joys of hardship.
Mavrik About Face (Skoman Productions). A local microcosm of the major-label rap release: guest appearances (Mistah F.A.B., Jennifer Johns, Gift of Gab), high production values, spoken word interludes, and interwoven elements from the urban spectrum (turntablism, R&B, funk). A paint-by-numbers success.
Talking Wood Talking Wood (Jizo Records). Multi-instrumentalist Keenan Webster and Oakland African roots ensemble Balafo form Talking Wood, whose improvisational style centers on prominent playing of the balafon - an ancient wooden xylophone from West Africa with a warm, bright sound - over percussion, string, and wind accompaniment.
The Drift Ceiling Sky (Temporary Residence Ltd.). Instrumental rock and progressive jazz collude quietly in this hour-long collection of rare tracks and remixes from San Francisco quartet the Drift. Don't stare too hard, or you just might miss it.
The Action Design Into a Sound EP (Pop Smear Records). Remember Tsunami Bomb? That tenacious pop-punk band blanketing Bay Area clubs around 2000? The one with the cute-chick lead singer? Her name is Agent M, and she's back with a new band and a more mature, occasionally rousing sound.