“This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over,” a child’s voice echoes in the first few seconds of Freedom, the colossal new record from Amen Dunes (AKA New York songwriter Damon McMahon). “Screw ’em—this is your time! Now go out there and take it.” This monologue is lifted from the 2004 hockey movie Miracle, and it’s followed by audio of McMahon’s mother reading a quote from abstract painter Agnes Martin: “I don’t have any ideas myself. I am a vacant mind.”
Released in March on outlier indie label Sacred Bones Records, Freedom is an experimental pop album that seems to ruminate on the tension between those two recordings—the first encourages listeners to seize their golden moment of personal glory and power, while the latter completely lets go of the idea of self and relinquishes control to the greater mechanics at work in the universe. The album’s 11 tracks conjure smoggy horizons, violently crashing waves, and the feeling of observing Earth from an airplane, with warped, immersive melodies built from moody bass, steely guitar riffs, controlled and chameleonic drums that make tempo changes feel as elemental as rip tides, nuclear sunset synth hues, and McMahon’s unique voice, which at times kind of sounds like a bleating goat (in the best way).
The album was largely inspired by modern masculinity, McMahon’s relationships with his parents, and examining the chaos of his childhood in retrospect, but most tracks work with different characters, like the midcentury surfer and convicted fraudster “Miki Dora,” AKA the “Black Knight of Malibu.” It’s the album’s best song, but other highlights include the intoxicating momentum of “Blue Rose” and the expansive closing track “L.A.,” which is spliced with the Miracle monologue from the beginning of the album. “Throw the saint in the fire, baby/Long day,” he sings. “Power’s something you believe in/Something you gain.” Freedom is Amen Dunes’ best record yet, and appropriately ends with anxious whispers, droning synth, and the driving force of drums that propel listeners forward into the unknown like a rogue roller-coaster.