Damon McMahon will be hitting Baltimore to perform on March 26 — and his fans can expect a style that’s a little different from his previous albums.
The artist behind the band Amen Dunes is just coming off of a whirlwind in activity. 2014 was a breakout year for McMahon as his album Love enjoyed critical acclaim — and its collaborative style led to some speculation that McMahon has been influenced by his musical peers. But McMahon quickly shot that down when I brought it up.
“The musicians didn’t impact my style,” he said, referring to Iceage and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, two groups that lent a hand in its production. “No, they were just friends, and I liked the way they played, but my style wasn’t any different because of them.”
And yet Amen Dunes seems to be undergoing plenty of stylistic evolution even without any help from outside forces. Love was a very different album from McMahon’s 2006 debut album DIA — not just because of the collaboration, but also thanks to more metaphorical, less workmanlike lyrics. But his very latest album, Cowboy Worship, builds on his 2014 triumph without any radical changes.
McMahon’s albums all seem to have a personality that ties into their own history. DIA sounds like McMahon wrote and produced it when he was in a period of deep-soul searching — because he was. McMahon actually holed himself up in a cabin for months as he wrote and created the album, and the result is a piece that’s deeply introspective. Love has more of a collaborative bent — although traces of the introspection remain. “To move out there on the horizon,” McMahon sings, “Do you know me like you know yourself? My friends out there on the horizon.”
Do these similarities mean that his style is crystallizing, becoming a little more defined as he finds his groove?
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” McMahon told me. “The whole point of music is that it never settles. The next album that comes out next year is going to be very different from Love.”
“But I will say I’ve gotten better at what I do. I can shape a song better than I used to.”
Amen Dunes will be performing at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on Thursday, March 26.
William Dahl is a recent graduate of The College of William and Mary, where he majored in Government and studied abroad in La Plata, Argentina. He has worked for community foundations in Argentina and Miami dedicated to community engagement and prosecution for human rights abuses. A native Virginian, he moved to Baltimore in 2013 to join a financial research firm, where he enjoys being able to write on the side.