[Sacred Bones; 2014]
Whether it be the turmoil between Israel and Hamas, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Malaysian crash over the Ukrainian war zone, or the continued violence in Iraq, it’s safe to say that the world has fallen on hard times. Even the music world has taken note of the uncertainty with a handful of dystopian albums being released this year (EMA, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Damon Albarn). With all the doom and gloom in the air, it’s surprising that an often unpredictable and brooding artist like Amen Dunes have released an album that can best be described as stripped-down and placid.
Love is an album that is rooted in simplicity during a time of complexity. The songs are as straight-forward as Damon McMahon has released to date, a steady, acoustic gait throughout, sauntering from one earnest track to the next. McMahon’s production shows a growing maturity, allowing the hazy atmosphere of the album to envelope the songs with a warm, loving spirit. With all the psychedelic theatrics collecting dust in the closet, his talents as a songwriter are illuminated. “Rocket Flare” slowly grows into a comforting cushion of reverberated tenderness, and the melody of “Lonely Richard” will quickly make a cozy nest in your brain.
The album’s simplistic title Love is a spot-on synopsis of the album’s clear-cut message. There’s no mention of war, disease, or the apocalypse; instead, every song brings it back to the one thing that can make the problems of the world disappear – love. McMahon has called this a break-up album, but despite the albums constant reminder of heartbreak, it never shakes the necessity the human spirit has for mutual affection. On “Everybody’s Crazy” McMahon laments the risk one takes in seeking a relationship singing “Everybody’s crazy/ crazy to say I love you,” but he also basks in the glory when the pursuit is a success. “I Know Myself” explores the redemptive qualities of love on the human spirit, and “Splits are Parted” has the hopeful, warbling chorus “Oh, I could love you! / Oh, that’d be easy!”
“Splits are Parted”:
Over the past 100 years, people have been faced with a variety of scary crises (both World Wars, the AIDs epidemic, 9/11), but the one constant during all of these problematic times was the love that people shared in their own little corners of the world. Love is a reminder that instead of cowering in fear at the latest ominous headlines and endless, fear-mongering news cycle, sometimes it’s better to stick your head in the sand and give yourself up to the uncertain void of love. It’s not a new sentiment – The Beatles said it best in 1967 with “All You Need is Love,” but Amen Dune’s chorus in “Lonely Richard” of “Have yourself a good time” is a nice reminder.