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Identifying a clear chasm in the sonic avalanche between Brent Knopf’s pre-and post-Menomena tenure is a pretty tall order. The Portland songwriter’s split from his longtime band probably generated more attention than Knopf wanted, and with that came the anticipatory assumptions as to how, if at all, his project Ramona Falls would stack up.
The short answer is that it doesn’t. In a larger sense, it doesn’t need to. Ramona Falls’ sophomore album, “Prophet,” followed Knopf’s creative affinities for orchestral arrangement disguised as space-y rock ‘n’ synth tracks. New wave sojourns like “Spore” showcased Knopf’s experimental dalliances, but there are moments of eye-popping guitar on Prophet, too. Big riffs and bigger drums drive tunes like “Sqworm” and “Brevony,” the latter sounding like the soundtrack to a bleary-eyed drive through the desert. The autonomy of the project, while tempting to articulate, is measured strictly by Knopf’s liberation from Menomena. Knopf’s songwriting, however, sustains a similar bent.
The record marked the first for Knopf with a full band behind him, featuring bassist Dave Lowensohn and guitarist Matt Sheehy (Lost Lander), and drummer Paul Alcott (Parenthetical Girls). That collaborative spirit wasn’t a new experience for Knopf; Ramona Falls’ debut LP, “Intuit,” was billed primarily as a solo album, though some 30-plus collaborators and cameos were integrated throughout the record. And despite resonating on a somewhat ambiguous musical plane, Prophet’s angularity and attention to dynamic interplay paints in broad strokes of post-rock panache. It’s tough to compartmentalize the Ramona Falls oeuvre, and that seems to be exactly what Knopf wants.
The legacy imprinted by both LPs is one of liberation, both artistically and personally, from being regarded as simply a side project. Those who’ve spent any time with Ramona Falls are aware of Knopf’s enormous talents, independent from the shadows cast by the likes of his former band.
Following the release of Prophet, Knopf’s taken the art-rock project out of the Rose City and onto the road, logging serious miles all over the United States and Canada, including sets at SXSW, and Fun Fun Fun Fest. RYAN J. PRADO
Los Angeles indie rockers Harriet somehow find a way to sound as raw as a Frank Black fever dream, and as oddly sensual as a Sinatra serenade. Combining elements of roots-y rock and ‘70s soft rock, the band’s debut, “Tell the Right Story, “is richly textured and unflappably catchy. Fronted by former Dawes bandmate Alex Casnoff, Harriet has developed a quick following, backed-up by a devotion to timeless songcraft (the track “I Slept with All Your Mothers” is especially satisfying) and fantastic hooks. RYAN J. PRADO
San Francisco’s Mahgeetah reside within the soft folds of the folk-blues milieu, digging easy-does-it throwback rock with psychedelic twists and turns. Anchored by sleepy-eyed organs and warm reverb, the band’s debut album, “Heavy Baby,” owes much to neo-Americana crews like Dr. Dog, Wilco, and the band’s namesake, My Morning Jacket. Wearing their inspirations on their sleeves, and an excellent single in “Wheels,” Mahgeetah are clearly a band with bright days ahead of them. RYAN J. PRADO