Amoeblog

Album Picks: Belle & Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney, Hanni El Khatib, Amen Dunes

Posted by Billy Gil, January 20, 2015 11:27am | Post a Comment

Belle & SebastianGirls in Peacetime Want to Dance

belle sebastian girls in peacetime want to dance lp

In the latter half of their career, Belle & Sebastian have consistently tried to balance the desire to appeal to a wider audience with more outward-facing pop songs alongside the bookish indie pop that netted them a cult of worshipping devotees in the first place. They’ve never done it quite as successfully as they have here on Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Opener “Nobody’s Empire,” with its marching beat, glowing synths and gospel choir backup vocals comes off like a statement of purpose: This will be a richly produced pop album (courtesy of Ben H. Allen III, who’s worked both with the indie-pop elite and hip-hop artists), so gear up. The band comes up with one of its most radio-ready singles to date on “The Party Line,” a disco-rock track with typically clever lyrics and a booming synth riff that won’t quit. The best Stevie Jackson-led song in years comes on the bittersweet beatnik funk of “Perfect Couples.” “Play for Today” is synthy and light, with ace guest vocals from Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee Penny. And it’s safe to say Belle & Sebastian have the only ABBA-esque synth-pop track that name-checks Sylvia Plath. But Belle & Sebastian want to do more than make us dance. Several tracks hue closer to their ’90s incarnation while still retaining the fuller production present on the album’s more immediate moments. The European folk-flavored “The Everlasting Muse” is rich with mandolin, horns and clap-along breakdowns. The slow-rolling, string-laden “Ever Had a Little Faith” is reminiscent of early B&S highlight “The Boys of Track and Field.” And Sarah Martin gets to sing lead on both the swoony “The Power of Three” and rollicking “The Book of You,” with some ripping guitarwork to boot. So it’s not the introverted Belle & Sebastian of yore. But this edition of Belle & Sebastian manages to help them evolve without losing what made them special. It’s a win-win for fans new and old, on one of Belle & Sebastian’s best albums in years.

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My Promiscuous Cochlea: Everyone My Ear Took Home in 2014

Posted by Mark Beaver, January 8, 2015 05:33pm | Post a Comment


Vinyl isn't cheap, nor is is tawdry, so the collecting of it has become much more a matter of discernment than it used to be.

The following is a list, alphabetical, perchance by merit, of the vinyl (new titles and re-issues) that made the cut in 2014. It doesn't presume to be a "Best Of," as I am very aware of the peculiarities of my particular set of listening apparatuses. It is a list of the vinyl that my scattershot attention locked on to, brought home and allowed to bed down in the limited space that I allot for records in my home.


amen dunes love sacred bones





































AMEN DUNES
Love (Sacred Bones)

Folky, trippy, with that under-water production we've heard from the likes of KURT VILE, except where VILE is stoned and hanging with his buddies, AMEN DUNES' Damon McMahon is lost in a vast open space, deep in the mushroom and calling "Marco Polo" to the night sky. Stark and brittle while somehow managing to remain lush. I don't think I listened to any album of 2014 as often as I've listened to this.

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Amen Dunes' Damon McMahon Talks Trying Not to Be Cool On New Album 'Love'

Posted by Billy Gil, June 13, 2014 06:16pm | Post a Comment

Amen Dunes Damon McMahonDamon McMahon has been making lo-fi psychedelic folk under the Amen Dunes moniker over the past decade. Several tours, a stint living in China and a few records later, and Amen Dunes are having a breakthrough moment with the recently released Love, a cleaner, more precise album and perhaps one of the best of the year thus far, full of swirling, melancholic folk-rockers with carefully considered experimental touches.

I’ve read that in the past you recorded a lot of things on your own onto tape. What made you want to go for a more produced sound on this record?

I think I’ve always wanted to make records that sounded really good, but I didn’t have the means to do so. It’s always been a solitary process, it never really worked for me in studios, but I’ve always wanted to make a record that sounded really good but I never really had the ability to do that. I had specific visions for this record. I had this idea of imagining what a songwriter record would sound like if it was backed by Pharoah Sanders. I was really obsessed with this Pharoah Sanders record called Karma, I have been for a long time. I wanted to make a record that production-wise was reminiscent of that. And I couldn’t really do that with a TASCAM four-track.  

Was it important to keep some of the immediacy of your earlier work? I’m thinking of a song like “I Can’t Dig It,” which has almost a live feel to it.

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Album Picks: Swans, Amen Dunes, La Sera, Little Dragon, Sean Nicholas Savage

Posted by Billy Gil, May 13, 2014 10:48am | Post a Comment

Swans - To Be Kind (LP, Two-CD Set, Deluxe Two-CD/DVD Set, Download)

swans to be kind lpSwans records are more like happenings, unforgettable experiences you have to sit down and pay attention to. The two-hour To Be Kind, released 21 months after the similarly epic The Seer, is no exception. Sounds wriggle, writhe and heave on the hilariously titled “Screen Shot,” but Swans also seem to have more control than ever—these sounds are speaking to one another, albeit in some unspoken language, not creating a cacophony. The effect can be paralyzing. Listening to “Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)” feels like staring into the darkest night, accompanied by a country sway and Michael Gira’s chants, which grow suddenly violent—“I’m just a little boy!” he cries repeatedly, while the guitars bellow and sigh with increasing pronunciation and sampled laughter ups the creep factor into Lynch territory. Gira growls “I need love” like it’s a threat. Meanwhile, “A Little God in my Hands” is Swans’ version of a pop song—thumping percussion (think Tom Waits) meets multiple voices singing over each other, while eerie backwoods instrumentation and sudden noise explosions burst out of nowhere but somehow still leave you bobbing your head along as Gira repeats evocative adjectives (“forever hateful, forever beautiful, forever needing, forever reaching”). It’s easy to attribute pagan imagery to Swans’ music and say it sounds like a séance or something, but the 34-minute “Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Overture” really does sound like the soundtrack to a sacrifice, or at least some wicked feast. Its slow, long build demands patience, but Gira’s always charismatic voice makes it worth the trip.

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