I’m battling to recall who introduced me to Noah Gundersen. I think it may have been my niece in the UK. Whoever it was, Thank You Thank You Thank You!! This has to be one of the most refreshing sounds I’ve heard in a long time.
The only album/EP I’ve heard is his self released “Family”, and I must say, I sat transfixed from fade in to fade out. His instrumentation, guitar playing style and lyrics are beautifully crafted and honest. I have only ever felt this way about a musician once before, and that was Damien Rice with his Album “O”.
The first track, “David” immediately draws you in with the solid bass beat from what sounds like a knock box. The droning strings give off a sense of angst and frustration, setting the tone for the rest of the song and arguably the rest of the EP. The lyrics make reference to the popular bible story of David and Goliath, and he uses this reference to illustrate his desire to overcome his “demons”. I guess that explains the aggressive accompaniment. After all, the only way to deal with your ghosts is to face them head on, without backing down.
His lyrics are incredibly descriptive. I would liken them to a photographer taking detail shots of an intricate piece of wood work or the close up portrait of a pretty girl; revealing the small imperfections that you may not see otherwise. Lyrics like “I met a lot of fine women, with the small of their backs, shining like the crescent moon” from the second track “Fire”, creates a scene in your mind that puts you right there in the moment. The droning pedal bass and open fifths seem to eclipse the sun and invite the creatures of the sacred night to dance around in your mind.
The rest of the EP is not as dramatic, but no less intriguing. “Nashville” and “San Antonio Fading” are songs that can hold very different meanings from person to person. Regardless, he still uses some very specific imagery that will make you feel like he’s singing only for you. The smoky quality of his voice and the well placed harmonies by his sister Abby only add to the tone (so to speak) of the lyrics. I guess the next track, “Honest Songs”, perfectly rounds off the overall intention of this EP.
My favourite track is the next in line, “Garden”. I will admit, I’m sucker for this type of lyric that simply illustrates the old adage of the silver lining, or in this case “even in the smallest places can a garden grow”. Everyone goes through difficult times, some more difficult than others, but nevertheless, its how we deal with these times that make us who we are. So for me, this song is my mantra during these times.
The title track “Family” ends off the album with a rather bohemian type of vibe. I can only assume he’s referring to the disjointed on goings of his own family. There’s a definite feel of taboo within the lyrics, but also a sense of nonchalance that you would expect from someone who has grown up in that type of environment. Nevertheless the song follows perfectly from the rest of the track, and as before, paints a picture of specific scenes being played out almost like a narcotic induced illusion.
As a whole, this artist has staying power. He’s made it through the break up with his band “The Courage”, and has emerged wiser in my opinion. He has all the makings of a great musician, and he has a dark sorrowful sound that is coloured by moments of intimate joy. I truly look forward to seeing where Gundersen takes us with his next album “Ledges”.
21 February 2014