Posts Tagged ‘Amen Dunes’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Amen Dunes

So, it is that Freedom follows Love, maybe that’s always the way it must be. Damon McMahon’s fifth album proper lands him a far cry from the scuffed surfaces of noise folk that wrought Dia, but while his exterior may be softened and refined, it’s the turmoil underneath that’s churning now. Freedom is at its core an exorcism of masculinity. Rightly so, perhaps there’s no better time to measure the weight placed on the idea of what is and isn’t acceptable from society’s view of males and the often-disastrous ways those expectations play out in callousing and setting our youth adrift. It’s also about taking down the statues of heroism that wind up hollow inside. Through his series of characters scratching at the hero myth, McMahon pulls the veil off the swaggering alpha and casts a clownish shadow clipping at his heels.

Still, while the lyrical undercurrent is heavier than most of Amen Dunes’ catalog, the surrounding songwriting is more buoyant than ever. Enlisting a deep pop bench of collaborators for this including Delicate Steve and Chris Coady, McMahon and crew give the album a palpable atmosphere that ranges from the cold humidity of songs like “Saturdarah” and “Blue Rose” to a baked-in warmth on “Miki Dora” and “Believe.” The record practically exhales steam at some points, creeping the cold up the listeners’ spines in sense-memory tingles. When he wants to shake the frost though, the twilight beach burners let the skin crackle with a burn that’s just past palatable and a tiredness that pulls the diaphragm from winded through to depression.

The album works its way over plenty of ground, from childhood to the final lock on childhood’s door – losing a parent. McMahon enlists his mumblecore vibrato to great effect here, giving his songs and characters a fragile edge that’s never surefooted and always looking to the horizon for answers. Still, none of this would work if it weren’t for a solid base of songwriting under the coated atmosphere and lyrical sandpapering of the cult of the boorish hero. To that end McMahon has succeeded handily, letting this one soak in deeper with each listen like a balm on a wound we’d all been letting fester.


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Amen Dunes’ Damon McMahon on The La’s – S/T

Years ago Damon McMahon contributed a track to one of RSTB’s first free download compilations. At the time his debut, Dia was just released and it was a flickering window of static rimmed folk that played well with the lo-fi crowd that dotted an indie landscape. Years later he’s embarking on his most ambitious and stridently pop album yet and he’s back to contribute to Hidden Gems, an exploration of albums that haven’t necessarily gotten their due in the pantheon of pop. Damon’s chosen an album that’s often lauded for its single but forgotten as a whole piece. The La’s 1990 debut will always be known for “There She Goes,” but as an album it lies squarely on the fault lines between jangle and Britpop.

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Amen Dunes – “Miki Dora”

This songs is so good it kinda makes me mad. No really, it has not place getting under the skin like this, but I’ll be damned if Damon McMahon isn’t on the precipice of laying down his shining moment. Good to see too, as he’s been riding out a long game career that’s crawled out of a fuzz-strewn psych foxhole, hammering his take on pop slowly but surely. Guess getting Chris Coady behind the boards doesn’t hurt and Nick Zinner sitting in on guitar work for the album seems like the kind of information that would have seemed inscrutable when his first album Dia landed all those years ago. Very excited for this one and for now keeping “Miki Dora” on repeat for as long as possible.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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