Sunday Ramblings

This week’s Sunday Ramblings features a mish mash of postings, so bear with me.  You can check out the review of the new album from Ramona Falls called Intuit, and then move onto fun news from Merge Records, Guitar Hero 5, Wayne Coyne’s shuffle game, and a killer show from Ryan Adams.

Ramona Falls - Intuit

Review: Ramona Falls – Intuit (4.25/5)

Ramona Falls is the solo project of Menomena’s Brent Knopf. Intuit, his first effort, was released on August 18. The tracks Russia and I Say Fever were posted on blogs before the release date, and I featured each respectively on Blogophilia VII and X.

Russia is a beautiful, ethereal song about exploring the world and the lessons it offers to a jilted man. I Say Fever is a bit different. From what I can get out of it, Knopf’s narrator is obsessed with a teenage girl, and he has the FEVER! I am guessing he’s not Humbert Humbert, but he’s old enough to wait five years, as he’s frequently reminded by various characters in the song. The release or leak of these two tracks was a shrewd move, as each represents the album well, and had me wanting more and anticipating the release date. I’ve listened to Intuit about a dozen times since picking it up two weeks ago, and I think it’s easily one of the ten best albums I’ve heard in an incredible year for music.

The first track of the album, Melectric, sets the tone for the whole album. It starts with a slow build from the piano and gradually becomes more complex: drums, slow bass line, guitar, electric mandolin and on… In Menomena, Knopf is one of three contributors to an eclectic, experimental sound. Ramona Falls allows his voice and musical vision to emerge with the help of about 35 of his closet friends.  Melectric sets the tone of the album by establishing an underlying melody. It is as complex as anything Menomena has recorded, but rooted in melody that Menomena often lacks. In fact, I Say Fever, Russia, and Melectric are accessible because they are inherently melodic. This observation is not meant to be critical of Menomena, rather it is meant to reflect that Knopf’s album is not Menomena lite. So many other solo projects from artists in successful bands tend to be watered down reflections of the larger entity. Intuit does not suffer this fate.

While the album is beautiful and wonderfully creative, it is also often melancholy. Many of the songs reflect elements of relationships gone awry. Clover, Salt Sack, Darkest Day and Russia all contain elements of love lost or love ruined. Always Right, the most experimental track on the album, has an eerie background choir with rhythm provided by an eerier piano fill that conveys megalomania with the constant chant “always right” over choruses that add to the megalomaniac’s paranoia and delusion. While Always Right represents Knopf’s greatest reach on the album, it is also reflective of his contributions to Menomena. It is the only track upon first listen I thought sounded anything like Menomena. However, it is only one track and part of a larger body that demonstrates Knopf’s unique talents as a writer and composer.

Intuit is a wonderful recording with complex arrangements and thoughtfully written lyrics. For me, it is one of those albums that is hard to summarize, because I think I need to listen to it 30-40 more times. It‘s really great, but think I will love it even more ten years from now.

Ramona Falls – Russia (MP3)

Merge Records

20 Years of Merge Records
The label that gave the world Neutral Milk Hotel, Superchunk, Spoon, and many others turned 20 this year, and that milestone is not lost upon the label or its fans.  Based in Durham, North Carolina, Merge Records emerged from a small label selling cassette tapes of Superchunk to local record shops in the southeast to one of the most successful Indie labels in the U.S.

Our Noise chronicles the rise of Merge Records and is set to be released next month. The Merge anniversary and book were recently the subject of All Songs Considered with Bob Boilen interviewing Merge owners and founders, Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance (MP3). This interview will have you eagerly anticipating the release of Our Noise.

Kurt Cobain to Appear in Guitar Hero 5

Guitar Hero Cobain

Activision announced that Guitar Hero will feature Nirvana and Kurt Cobain in its latest edition to the series. The second greatest left-handed guitarist from Seattle will be playing an unreleased live version of Lithium, and the smash hit from Nevermind, Smells Like Teen Spirit. You can read about it here.

Wayne Coyne’s Ipod Shuffle:

The Boston Globe Online has a feature in its Arts and Entertainment Section called Ipod Shuffle which features the first 10 tracks appearing in shuffle mode on a music artist’s Ipod. This week the Globe featured Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips. Too bad he forgot his Ipod!  Oh well, his list is interesting nonetheless–even if it was cherry picked!  Have a look at it here.

I actually partook in the Shuffle Game and here’s my list:

1) Son Volt – Afterglow 61 from Okemah and the Melody of Riot
2) Bruce Springsteen – Further On Up (The Road) from The Rising
3) Spoon – Plastic Mylar from Telephono
4) Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able from Veckatimest
5) Guided By Voices – In Stitches from Do The Collapse
6) The Who – Squeeze Box from The Who By Numbers
7) Sharon Jones & The Dapkings -from 100 Days, 100 Nights
8. Ida Maria – Drive Away My Heart from Fortress Round My Heart
9) Feist – My Moon My Man from The Reminder
10) Jane’s Addiction – Trip Away from Jane’s Addiction

LMA Show of the Week:

In the previous version of this blog, I would often feature a live show from the Live Music Archive (LMA). For those not familiar with the LMA, it serves to host recordings from artists who allow taping at their concerts. The Grateful Dead was the first band to popularize this tradition, and it is one that continues with several hundred bands in the current day. Check out the LMA to get an idea of the enormity of the site.

Mandy and Ryan TLA

Recently, I downloaded the Ryan Adams at War Memorial Auditorium (3/15/09) show, and I was quite please with this selection. Old Ryan knows how to put on a show, and he seems especially gregarious on this night.  Maybe it had something to do with his recent marriage to Mandy Moore. Who knows, but it is a great soundboard recording and a must have for any fan of the Bedheaded One. Get it here.

That’s all folks!  Until next time…

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