Amen Dunes – Love

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

On their second album for Sacred Bones Records, a lot has been made about Amen Dunes employing various musicians to come in and help put the finishing touches on Love.  In the end, all of that’s rather irrelevant, as the core of the songs are what standout the most.  There’s a clarity to the songwriting, moving the band in more of a dark folk direction than they’ve employed before.

“White Child” begins the record, and for five minutes immediately establishes the tone of the record.  There’s a dark stomp on the drum, while a slight haze coats the vocal.  And speaking of that vocal, there’s a nice stretch where the vocal is pushed to a rasp, again indicating a more folk appeal that survives on Love.  And, it’s followed by one of my favorite tracks of the year, “Lonely Richard.”  Taken in bits and pieces, this song might be grating to some, with it’s scratching string arrangements, seemingly placed sloppily atop the steady drumbeat and guitar parts.  But, when used in unison, there’s this intoxicating effect that makes it hard to pull yourself away from the number; I love the chorus too.  While I enjoy both tracks, they do wear you out almost immediately, collectively pushing over ten minutes on two tracks, then moving into the shorter numbers.

Still, can Amen Dunes pack the same punch in a short span, as tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 all fall in under 4 minutes, with some far shorter.  “Lilac in Hand” is a perfect example of how the band can accomplish all their goals in a short moment.  The piano often seems to work in contradiction to the light percussion and guitar chords, at least in tonal quality, but it’s that union once again that enables the listener to find themselves lost within the track.  Similarly, the piano ballad, “Green Eyes,” is beautiful in its simplicity and immediacy.  There’s two vocals parts here, one in a much deeper tone, giving a very solemn haunting to the track, as if that hollow sounding piano weren’t enough. But, just as you’re accustomed to the sadder side of the band, they throw a curveball, “I Can Dig It.”  This song has a shuddering guitar chord and a rise and fall to it, but mostly it’s the spirit of the track that makes it stand out on the album; it’s the most energetic tune on the record, even when they burst off into harmonies while the guitar fades slightly into the background.  For me, it was a nice touch after a sadder number, and it had me wishing there were perhaps one or two more tracks of this sort lurking throughout the album.

Going through Love track by track wore me down a bit, honestly, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the quality of the songs.  I got lost a few times in the slow pace, which is why I enjoyed the placement of “I Can Dig It” so much.  But, when you’ve got time to submit yourself to the will of carefully crafted songs, give yourself a chance to thoroughly enjoy this new LP from Amen Dunes.

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