Coming out of the ultra-hot San Francisco underground, Number Prophets aren’t fazed by the contemporary eclecticism of pop/rock in 2020 – if anything, they’re more interested in embracing it than they are changing anything about the direction history is going in right now. In their new extended play, rightly titled Notes on the Crises, these Bay Area rockers deliver a running commentary on emotionality, the modern alternative aesthetic and personal subject matter that is anything but forced, and while they’re not the lone indie act you should be listening to this October, they’re one of the few to have released an EP of note in my opinion.
The harmonies in the record-opening “Uncomfortably Numb” and “The Ruins” immediately made me think of Antioch-based alternative rock trio Overwhelming Colorfast, with the latter exploiting shades of a similarly guitar-centric tone reminiscent of OC’s take on “She Said She Said.” You can tell that these guys have spent some time learning from their influences and predecessors without actually borrowing any of their traits to incorporate into a fresh sound, and compared to what a lot of mainstream artists would have just as soon tried, that’s emphatically more organic and original.
We get a pretty good balance of gritty distortion and crisp percussion in Notes on the Crises, and in the case of “Uncomfortably,” the juxtaposition of the two is almost distracting over the firm lyricism in the foreground. Number Prophets can be stealthy (“The Valley,” “Song for Mikey”) or as aggressive as they are in the aforementioned instances, and in either situation, they never sound flustered with the ambitiousness of the task set before them. This is a very swaggering EP by all measures, and for a group trying to survive in this cutthroat market, that’s telling of their potential for certain.
Lyrically, “The Ruins” and “Song for Mikey” allude to a deeper self-consciousness that I really want this group to explore a little more than they already have in their next release. There’s enough to build an entire album around in Notes on the Crises, and whether it’s just the tipping-off point for a full-length or merely a sample effort of what they’ve got in the tank for this next era, I think it would be a shame for mainstream audiences to miss out on what Number Prophets have established themselves as here – multidimensional, unapologetic alternative rockers committed to substance above cosmetic over-stylizations.
A new EP that feels like an instant classic when played without any external interruption, Notes on the Crises is one of my favorite indie rock cuts out of the California circuit this fall, and while it might not do much to elevate Number Prophets into international superstardom, I don’t think it needs to for this band to get a lot of well-deserved respect and adulation from listeners and professional critics everywhere. 2020 has been the most unpredictable year this game has experienced in a century, but with an extended play like Notes on the Crises, normalcy feels a little more within reach.
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