Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Ramona Falls - intuit - due out August 18th on Barsuk

No one wants summer to be over, but it would almost be worth it to push the clock forward just a little faster just so everyone had a chance to hear Ramona Falls debut LP 'Intuit' a little sooner (Due out August 18th on Barsuk). Ramona Falls is the moniker used by Brent Knopf, one of the three frontmen (it's safe to say they're all frontmen) of Portland's very own Menomena. These guys seem to be overflowing with musical ideas, as this is the second solo project to split off of Menomena, while the band continues to put out new material at the same time. Ramona Falls is a slightly different beast than bandmate Danny Seim's project Lackthereof. Both have characteristics that come out in Menomena, but Ramona falls sounds more like if Menomena collaborated with Arcade Fire, or some other sort of orchestral pop group..but don't let my simplified description mislead you.

I got to see Ramona Falls as a solo guitar act last fall at CMJ and its astonishing how much Brent has been able to flesh out the songs on this album. When I heard about this project a month or two again, I was intrigued but not overly excited, recalling not being completely bowled over by his performance. No doubt some of the amazing guests he called on to help him realize his vision helped catapult this release into the running for my favorite album of the year. Barsuk's website says that 35 different friends appear on the album (including members from two of my favorite Portland acts: Talkdemonic and the Helio Sequence..I swear there must be something in the water over there).

The songs on Intuit inhabit icy landscapes, hilly valleys, and grandiose cathedrals, without ever feeling distant or losing their emotional intimacy. After being treated to a sneak preview listen of record (it hasn't leaked yet, thank god), the thing that sets it apart from Menomena's sometimes frenetic, almost claustrophobic arrangements is Ramona Falls' sense of atmosphere, or just gigantic space. For some, creating music space means adding reverb, but Ramona Falls creates space with its instrumental textures and elaborate compositions. It's space also does not mean that it feels sparse at all. Every song is delightfully full, especially the the beautiful chorus jaunt "Bellyfulla" containing "more happiness than a body can hold." Melancholy is no stranger on Intuit either. The particularly sorrowful album closer "Diamond Shovel" strips down to a single guitar and Brent's voice and its wonderfully subtle vibrato.

The hairpin turns one comes to expect from listening to Menomena albums are also present here. "Russia" and my personal favorite on the album (so far), "Clover" are great examples of songs that will do complete 180's several times over the course of a song. The drop of the mechanized drum beat and time signature switcharoo in "Russia" is a great example of an unexpected "Oh shit! No he didn't!" moment. Brent's surprisingly distinctive piano playing is also a big crossover for Menomena fans. I know i have mentioned Menomena a lot in this review, but rest assured, Ramona Falls is able to stand on its own as a truly unique and separate entity.

Once again, intuit drops August 18th from Barsuk, and I hope this review has been able to entice a few of you to check it out. The catchy opener "Melectric" and "Salt Sack" are available to listen to on Ramona Falls myspace..enjoy!

Ambient Signal - 7/21/09 - Rainy extended show

WRPI 91.5fm!
http://www.wrpi.org/ for webcast
Tuesdays 6-8pm

Raining most of the day..64 degrees..when is summer coming..this is like a record for rainy tuesdays

The Antlers - Kettering (thanks Tim!)
Bright eyes - Padriac my prince
Annuals - The Tape
Death cab for cutie - Tiny Vessels
Son lux - War
Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopedies 2 (Orchestral)
Sigur Ros - Untitled 7
Grizzly Bear - While you wait for the others
YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo city)
Most serene republic - four humours
Phantogram - Mouthful of diamonds
Magnolia electric co. - shiloh
Bowerbirds - Chimes
Tiny Vipers - Eyes like ours
Wilco - Wilco (song) ((...are you serious??)
Trevor Giuliani -Van Singing
Cymbals eat guitars - Cold Spring
Gregory pepper - we were dinosaurs
Portugal. The man - lovers in love
Clark - Rainbow voodoo
Megafaun - kaufman's ballad
Rock plaza central - handsome men
Summer cats - hey you
We were promised jetpacks - it's thunder and lighting
Tiny masters of today - Skeletons
Dirty projectors - stillness is the move
Foreign born - blood oranges
Bibio - Fire ants
Ohbijou - Black ice
Camera obscura - Let's get out of this country
Orenda fink - Miracle worker
Neva Dinova - It's worse when you're young
Menomena - The Pelican
13 & God - Men of station
Patients - Mind ur manners
A northern chorus - Rememberence day
The Album leaf - Fear of flying
Balmorhea - Settler

p.s. we just cracked 20,000 hits..i think I may have been the 20,000th, haha

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Situation

Vieux Farka Toure - Ma HIne Cocore (Yossi Fine's 3rd Bass Remix)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - So Much Trouble in the world
Bob Marley and the wailers - Zimbabwe
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Top Rankin'
Bobby Melody - Jah Bring I Joy in the Morning

Desmond Dekker - Music Like Dirt
Desmond Dekker - Licking stick
Desmond Dekker - Unity

Althea and Donna - Uptown Top Rankin
Vieux Farka Toure - Wosoubour
the Derek Trucks Band - Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni
Soukous Stars - Tita

Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires - Tiney Winey
Krosfyah - Pump me up.
Burnin' Flames - Swingin Engine

Dennis Brown - Love has found its way
Antibalas - Gabe's New Joint
JC Lodge and Prince Mohammed - Someone loves you honey/One time daughter

Sunset Rubdown - Silver Moons
M. Ward - Radio Campaign
stevie wonder - If it's magic
Sly and the Family stone - I want to take you higher
the Decemberists - July, Juiy!
UB40 - Higher Ground
Sunset Rubdown - Idiot Heart
Vieux Farka Toure - Sangare

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Music Review: The Antlers - Hospice

Already hailed as the best album of 2009 so far by NPR, Hospice by The Antlers attempts to secure its place in the canon of epic indie rock albums (Funeral, The Moon & Antarctica, et al.). The lyrics, which read like a novel rather than poetry or a series of disjointed phrases, tell a story from the perspective of a man losing a lover (current or ex, it's unclear) to cancer at a hospital ward and detail the memories and feelings that ensue. Discussing his past relationship with his loved one, from abortion ("When we get home we're bigger strangers than we've ever been before/You sit in front of snowy television, suitcase on the floor," from "Bear") to rushing into a lifelong commitment ("Two silver rings on our fingers in a hurry," from "Two"), it's obvious that the narrator has been through a lot of turmoil with this dying woman even without taking her cancer into consideration. Indeed, Antlers songwriter Peter Silberman does a great job of getting the listener invested in the story; throughout the album, the listener feels the narrator's (and, in some cases, his loved one's) pain.

However, sometimes the music comes off as too epic for its own sake, most likely in an effort to match the grand scope of the story. While "Prologue" is, predictably, an instrumental introduction, following track "Kettering" also feels like an introduction, resulting in nearly seven minutes of studio trickery and guitar feedback that do little to heighten the anticipation before the album really takes off with "Sylvia." Other songs also have similar moments that just go on too long for no real reason; "Atrophy" and "Wake" have extended instrumental sections consisting of the aforementioned feedback and trickery that bloat the song lengths to nearly eight and nine minutes respectively. Thanks to these moments, the album largely comes off as too slow and meandering; the best moments are when the band picks up the pace a bit such as in "Bear" and "Two," which not so coincidentally are the songs that have been garnering The Antlers the most praise in the press. Clearly, The Antlers put a lot of thought and heart into Hospice, which is always great to see. However, getting rid of some of their overly bombastic tendencies could eventually elevate them from 'good' to 'great' status.

While independently released earlier this year, Hospice will be rereleased by Frenchkiss Records on August 18th. Stream some songs from the album here. The Antlers will be playing their closest area show on July 25th at Iron Horse in Northampton, MA, opening for Frightened Rabbit.