Review Summary: Prophet is an impressive sophomore effort from Portland's Ramona Falls.
When some of his songs weren’t catching on with the (then) triune band Menomena, Brent Knopf created Ramona Falls, eventually resulting in 2009’s Intuit
, an album he recorded in dozens of locations with dozens of musicians. Two years and one Menomena album later, he decided to quit that band and make the side project his primary focus. For the second Ramona Falls album, he whittled down his collaborators to a more traditional four-piece and just a few guest spots.
Staccato keys and a straight ahead beat open Prophet
but soon give way to a more lush guitar and synth arrangement with a breakbeat and double-timed hi-hat, setting the tone for the rest of the album: a little violin flourish here, a little flute run there, Knopf ironically or not singing, “I have to, have to, have to let go of total control.”
The first line of “Archimedes Plutonium;” the sugariest pop tune on the record, is “What I’d give if you feel my love,” so no doubt some will find it overly cloying, while the rest of us shrug so what because the song sounds great, just catchy as hell. The dissonance of his former band--and even Inuit
tracks like “I Say Fever” and “Always Right”--has certainly been reined in, but Prophet
is not all easy pop hooks. The eerie tension of Knopf’s piano remains, beginning “Sqworm” and “Brevony” before distorted guitar riffs turn them into solid rock jams. The chorus of “The Space Between Lightning and Thunder” takes an unexpected turn the second time around with ascending major chords, a point at which I wish he had milked the minor-key hook a little longer before throwing the curve, instead of the immediate back and forth pattern he establishes.
One quibble is the restraint in Knopf’s singing. The melodies are strong, but they beg for the vocal fervor he’s used to great effect in previous songs like Menomena’s “Rose” and "The Monkey's Back." Also missing are distinctive bass lines, one of the core strengths he left behind with Justin Harris of Menomena. Still, these are minor issues on an album with plenty of other enjoyable aspects.