While I had heard of previous songs from Amen Dunes – the project of upstate New York native and now Brooklyn resident Damon McMahon – I was not overly familiar with his work until he opened for Mac DeMarco at The Blacksheep Inn in early April 4. Despite driving nearly ten hours from New York City to Wakefield, Quebec for the gig and arriving just before the start of their set, McMahon along with Jordi Wheeler performed an engaging and spirited 30-minute set, consisting mostly of songs from Amen Dunes’ new album, Love, an excellent and expansive indie folk-rock album.
“White Child” is a brilliant opener – a choral, melodic folk-rock tune that slowly builds throughout its 5+ minutes. “Lonely Richard” is a catchy, guitar-strumming track that brings to mind Richard Ashcroft and The Verve’s finest work outside of “Bittersweet Symphony”. “Splits Are Parted” is hazy, lo-fi mellow tune that masterfully uses strings in the background to create that eerie, lonely feeling.
“Sixteen” and “I Know Myself” are wistful, sombre tracks. “Rocket Flare”, meanwhile, is a ’70s-inspired rock number and one of the many highlights of the album. While to similar to Adam Granduciel’s approach of ’80s classic rock on the War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream by translating ’70s music for contemporary listeners, McMahon takes a less sweeping and more lower-key approach, almost singing in a monotone voice over a spacy track.
“I Can’t Dig It” is another star of the album. The songs sees McMahon return to his psychedelic roots on this reverb heavy track with plenty of distorted guitars. The addition of “I Can’t Dig It” gives the album a change of pace and ear-popping number, much like “Electioneering” on Radiohead’s OK Computer, which captures the listener’s attention because of how distinct yet brilliant the track is and how well it fits into the overall story.
Love, as a whole, isn’t a revelry album, but it is hauntingly beautiful and alluring. The attention to details – from the melodies to rhythms – help separate this album from many other indie-folk albums produced this year. And for these reasons, it is an album to be celebrated and acknowledged among the year’s bests to date.
Amen Dunes is currently on tour, and you can find tour dates on their Facebook site.
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