Ramona Falls, Prophet

Ramona Falls, <em>Prophet</em>

Don’t be fooled by the gentle, quietly-smiling, lull-you-to-sleep vibe of Ramona Falls’ second album, Prophet: this isn’t music to fall asleep to. At least, not unless you want to dream of singularities and confluences and galaxies spiraling out to infinity. If that’s what you’re aiming for, well, lay your head right down and go for it.

For my money, though, you’re better off actually staying awake and paying attention, because Ramona Falls’ one consistent member, Brent Knopf, has carefully, deliberately crafted a set of insanely smart, thoughtful songs that make you feel like you’re traveling down the rabbit hole, and hell, you don’t mind in the slightest.

Knopf’s vocals are delicate and sweet, moving along with a calm, almost stately feel and coming off for all the world like a less-somnolent Ben Gibbard as he serenely dives into an ocean of majestic, indie-pop-ish melody that’s alternately light and dark. It’s beautiful and sublime, in the way that the most high-flying Flaming Lips songs tend to be, but at the same time subtle, forcing you to listen carefully to truly get what’s happening.

I’ll admit that I made the mistake myself the first time through; I put it in my car CD player and roared off down the road, only halfway listening as I made my way through stop-start traffic to and from work. And in that environment, Prophet just didn’t work for me — it was too quiet, too careful, too layered to really jump out at me. So I tossed the album aside for a while, shrugging it off and moving on.

When I tried it again on the headphones, though, I realized my error immediately. There’s just something about the fragile, serious, crystalline music captured here that doesn’t work blasting over crappy car speakers; this is close-listening music.

Once I gave Ramona Falls a second chance, I was kicking myself for not doing so sooner. I’d known Knopf used to be in Menomena, but until then I hadn’t truly appreciated that what I apparently liked about that band was his contribution. There’s a hefty resemblance to Menomena here, particularly on opener “Bodies of Water,” which echoes “Evil Bee” a little in the melody, and “Spore,” with its fuzzed-out, thick-sounding synths.

That said, don’t take Prophet be a retread of Friend and Foe — that Menomena-ness is jammed in alongside hints of the bright-shining pop of Freelance Whales, the electro-soul of Athlete (see that “stately” thing, above), and a surprising bit of Ben Folds-ish jauntiness. Take a listen to the quasi-funky “If i Equals u” or the raw, sharp-edged rock of “Brevony,” and you’ll see what I mean; these are songs Knopf’s former band would’ve never really attempted, and they’re all the more beautiful for that.

[Ramona Falls is playing 2/19/13 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Social Studies & The Calm Blue Sea.]
(Barsuk Records -- P.O. Box 22546, Seattle, WA. 98122; http://www.barsuk.com/; Ramona Falls -- http://www.ramonafalls.com/; Ramona Falls (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/ramonafalls; Ramona Falls (Twitter) -- https://twitter.com/ramonafalls)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Tuesday, February 19th, 2013. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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