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Posted on February 17th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Casey Bauer

His voice oscillates with a haunting timbre we can't quite get out of our heads. His guitar takes on many forms; sometimes morose and ghostly, sometimes warm and inviting, but always slightly aloof, secondary to vocals, a piano, or percussion. Known as Amen Dunes, Damon McMahon has made lo-fi, psych rock music with a folky twist for over ten years, and he's proven to be quite the perfectionist. His last full length album, Love, “took close to a year and half, 16 musicians, and five different studios to complete.” It's pretty standard for a musician to release an album of previously unheard or redone tracks, and with his latest EP, Cowboy Worship, we're pretty sure McMahon was trying to accomplish just this. However, it just didn't quite happen for him. Four out of the six tracks can be found on Love, and they feel hardly retouched. The other two tracks include a remix from another album and a cover of a cover. Now, don't get us wrong, Cowboy Worship is perfectly lovely and we adore McMahon's musicality, but we're pretty tired of hearing the same released music, just in different formats.

We get it -- bands release EPs to keep their fans interested and updated on their work in between full length albums. Yet, there are those like Passion Pit and Andrew Bird that will release the same songs, but they're recreated and completely different than the originals; and we love this. Through alternative versions, such as Bird's “See the Enemy” and “Orpheo,”,and Passion Pit's “Constant Conversations,” we're thrilled to be introduced to a flipside; a new spin on something we may have grown accustomed to through multiple listens. But sadly, that's what makes EPs such as Cowboy Worship a struggle, because we're just not met with anything that different than before. The recording process may have been different for the artist, but we, as listeners, simply don't see that. All we see are price tags on similar, if not identical, songs and are left wondering why we're expected to spend money on something we technically already own.

Original versions of “Green Eyes” and “I Can't Dig It” can both be found on Love, but their differences are talked up a bit too much on Sacred Bones Records' page. Described as a “blown-out version,” “Green Eyes” has a more atmospheric vibe on Cowboy Worship. With jingling bells, a vibraphone, and swirling lo-fi guitars that trickle into a new experimental outro, it's indeed a provocative, slightly remixed song, but only just. It's also only a modest ten seconds longer than before, hardly making it “blown-out.” The original version of “I Can't Dig It” was so full of reverb that it sounded like it was recorded in a bucket. The new version is more polished, allowing us to hear the intricacies in the guitar work, but once again, it has the same vibe and sound as ever.

“Lezzy Head” is from Amen Dunes' 2011 album, Through Donkey Jaw, and while it's almost identical in format, down to the second, it features a more soundscape instrumentally. Focusing more on light percussion, as opposed to the chant-like background of prior, “Lezzy Head” is as refreshing as it gets for Cowboy Worship, in terms of new, original content.

“Song to the Siren” is the only song on the EP that we have not yet heard Amen Dunes perform, although it's a cover of This Mortal Coil's version of Tim Buckley's song by the same name. It's a stripped down track, with McMahon's guitar drifting in and out of a steady beat while his vocals float and echo about. The song is positively gorgeous in all three versions (although there are endless others out there), and we give it up to Amen Dunes for managing to make it his own through his characteristic vocals and meandering guitar.

This isn't the first time IYS has discussed a musician's tendency to release the same songs in different albums, and we have a feeling it may not be the last. No matter how good an album is, it's always a bit of a letdown to hear that a new release is truly not that different from a previous one. It's almost like having your parents go into your room, pull a book off your shelf, wrap it up, and give it back to you for your birthday. Such is the case with Cowboy Worship. It's great, but we already have it.

Track List:

  1. I Know Myself (Montreal)
  2. Song to the Siren
  3. I Can't Dig It (China Street Blues)
  4. Green Eyes (Music Blues)
  5. Lezzy Head (Burial)
  6. Love (Montreal)
Amen Dunes - Cowboy Worship EP Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

59 / 100
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