Intuit (08.09, Barsuk)
Byline: A lop-sided solo effort by Menomena's Brent Knopf.
For: Menomena, Hospital Ship, Frightened Rabbit
I have no qualms about putting Menomena's I am the Fun Blame Monster on my list for best records to come out in the 21st century. The contrast between experimentalism, tunesmanship, fun and moments of true emotional frailty and beauty are high marks that every young indie band should strive for. It was Brent Knopfs yearning, emotionally wrought falsetto that breathed some of the most threatening and emotionally raw lines in "Monkey's Back" and "Strongest Man in he World" that made IAMTFBM go from a really great album to absolutely essential. Now, Brent Knopf is back from his world wide escapades and has assembled some of the most fantastic musicians in and around Portland including and not limited to: 31 Knots, Sleater-Kinney, Mirah, Loch Lemond, Helio Sequence, Dat'r, Talkdemonic. It has been several listens and to tell you the truth the verdict is still out. Ramona Falls isn't as depressing as Lackthereof, Danny Seims side project, but it isn't aiming far outside the melancholy-experimental-folk-pop bin. Brent Knopf's voice and self deprecating song writing which sparsely populates Menomena takes front stage here, with the weight of his sincerity and the quivering vibrato of his voice being laid bare. The entire thing strikes me as sadly average, and this hurts me to say. There are your self-reflective quiet songs, a couple of mid tempo orchestrated songs, and one or two messy fast songs. Now, this is not to say that there aren't moments of sheer brilliance and beauty. For example the way that "Melectric" starts with a gorgeous piano line while Knopf's voice lilts into the falsetto at the end of every line like when he laments, "before I can find a pen/it is gone in the wind/broken string runaway kite." The way he almost sighs "Please don't give me false hope/you're free to go" grabs me like Conor Obersts voice did when I was 16. Moments of beauty abound on this album, rearing their head in the indie rock heal-the-world-chorus on "Bellyfulla" and the driving-yet-depressing in the vein of Frightened Rabbit "Going Once, Going Twice". You can tell that Brent Knopf is serious when he means what he says, but when his sense of appropriate Menomena goofiness is featured it destroys tracks. "Russia" and "Always Right" show that Billy Bragg he is not. Aside from some of the tracks that I have a hard time getting through, at the end of the day Ramona Falls is a rewarding experience in that it simply shows how much collective brilliance goes into Menomena. We should count ourselves lucky that the universe brought those 3 guys together.
He Makes it look so easy.