Did I dream you

New music, and also a lot about Amen Dunes

Did I dream you
“My Father's Sheep Is Dead,” Milkweed [Bandcamp]

At the bottom of this post you’ll see me going on about “Song to the Siren” and a playlist I started five years ago, and that finally made some sense to write about now.

Maybe relatedly: Old habits die hard. Which is why I still follow Pitchfork even as it appears to reach the Weekend at Bernie’s arc of its existence as a publication for people who care deeply about music. The first true sign that the lights are finally starting to flicker there is that—as of 3:15 p.m. CT, eight-plus hours after the news broke—there’s still no mention of the death of Can’s Damo Suzuki. (Update: An obit went up on the site right as I published this.) Anyway, as for Pitchfork, don’t be sad it’s over, etc.

Now for this week’s new music. (Spotify / Apple Music)

“The Bureaucrat,” the Infinites

After “The Queen” from a few weeks ago, this band continues to astound me with these guitar lines. Very excited to hear what’s in store with their album, out next week.

“Purple Land,” Amen Dunes

Damon McMahon continues painting his own world with this new song. I love how the song here, as an idea, feels more important than the recording of it. Like it was enough to simply get it out, get it front of listeners, and move to the next thing. There is, I am nearly certain, a flub in the second verse, and I just appreciate the fact that it’s left in there.

“Money Shows,” John Glacier (feat. Eartheater)

Another wonderfully broken track, and one of the rare moments where an Eartheater-adjacent song lands for me, but this one certainly does.

“My Father's Sheep Is Dead,” Milkweed

What a charming, unsettling song. Trying to find out more about it, I see Raven Sings the Blues notes the song’s “Wicker Man folk fumes,” which I think is about as apt a description as any.

“It Isn't Her,” Zenxith

Bedroom pop is everywhere, and probably happening right now in your neighborhood, even, but oftentimes it’s hard to find the song’s hook—which is what makes pop tick—when the recording can barely keep up. But it works here, and really really well.

“Coral,” Olof Dreijer

The other half of the Knife is back with this meandering, fun (“fun?”) little odyssey full of squishy, organic synth.

“Fishbrain,” Mount Kimbie

It’s rare to hear a band with this kind of range, from their early dubstep to the disarmingly mediocre MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning in 2022, to this new, well I’m not even sure what it is. It’s very indie and very much of a groove, and I’m into it.

“The Ring,” Flowertown

This Galaxie 500-ish is just a perfect guitar pop song, a tight melody woven around instrumentation so spare that a simple bass walkdown can drive the mood of the track.

“Utter Fallen Bloom Things,” Mark Trecka

I’ve been putting this one off for a while, because it took me quite a few listens to figure out what I liked about the song, or if it worked for me. There’s a lot going on here, and a song with instrument and vocal layers that seem to sweep in and out underneath themselves. Very clever.

“Curiosity,” Labasheeda

This has been out for a while, but I only recently caught up with it. What an interesting mix of vibes: punkish, early REM with vocals recalling Kim Gordon.

“Fastened Maze,” Kali Malone

Goth-y, drone-y, orchestral, and from one of the more hotly anticipated albums (out this week), at least among listeners (hi) who cannot resist the goth-y, drone-y, and orchestral. (Side note: On more than one occasion I’ve accidentally had YouTube and Spotify open at the same time playing two different Kali Malone tracks that seemed to seamlessly blend together.)

“Reel E,” Water Damage

A 20-plus-minute structured cacophony that sits somewhere between the Velvet Underground and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and left me in a daze every time I finished it.

Of all the artists I dearly appreciate, I have never been exactly able to decipher what it is about Amen Dunes that I like so much. As much as listening to music means to me personally, as much of my identity has always depended on it while wanting to believe I’m an individual, I believe I’m predictably attracted or repelled by certain music, not genres at all, but more the things that are a little too much—too polished, too contrived, too beautiful.

Writing that, maybe I just figured out what it is about Amen Dunes that I like so much. I hadn’t connected strongly with Damon McMahon’s music until I heard his cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” which—like many listeners—I was first introduced to by way of Elizabeth Fraser’s soul-quenching rendition for This Mortal Coil, a version that may be the very definition of the line beyond which a song becomes too polished/contrived/beautiful. It is a version of the song that has carried me through so much joy and misery, often blurring the two in Fraser’s extraordinary version.

When I heard the Amen Dunes cover a few years back, that was the door I needed into McMahon’s catalog. OK, he gets it. He gets this song, and he makes it his own, much as Fraser does, but he wrenches another sort of beauty out of it, one so awkward and felt. Which is to say, exactly what I like.

So I did what anyone would do right then, and created a playlist of every version of “Song to the Siren” I could find, and let me just say that there are a lot of very bad, very saccharine versions of this song—mostly suffering from a lack of any real point of view. Still, I whittled the playlist down to a set of covers—and also Buckley’s original—that each evoke palettes of their own, that stand out for one reason or another, in their originality, their simplicity, and sometimes because you can hear just how deeply this song is felt by the performer, even Bryan Ferry.

Here’s the playlist. (Spotify / Apple Music)