This ‘Noah Gundersen’ article was written by ‘David Lowes’, a GIGsoup contributor
If cover art is something to go by (and it usually is), then Seattle-born Noah Gundersen’s solo album is something to behold. American musicians usually are two things; A) Not short on confidence (a read of his bio on his website indicates that he’s no shrinking violet, if you need more proof a listen to his lyrics shows us his confidence) and B) Not afraid to use themselves as an object of their songs. I don’t know why it is, but whilst British and American music share many parallels, the songwriting tradition could not be more different.
It is a difference that could not be more apparent if it tried on this album, Gundersen takes until track 4 to talk about someone else (and even then he’s talking about how bad their relationship was). The lyrics constantly focus on our existential need for other people, even though in doing so we open ourselves to a world of hurt; Gundersen tries to explain paradox in simple, direct terms, it’s an ambitious goal for someone so young and on their debut album, but I’m pleased to report that 90% of the time he’s successful! The other 10% of the time is a bit hit and missy, but to be honest, who (other than a select few) hit 100% of the time? The music seems bogged down but trying to increase itself, it is a mix of down-tempo introspects and up-tempo introspects (track 5 ‘The Difference’ shows this dichotomy very well). Despite the inherent risks involved in this stratagem of craft, he manages to bring it off very well, never allowing the album to sound either too poppy or too downhearted.
However this album has a glaring weakness, something that all artists (new or established) almost inevitably share in. Thirteen tracks of essentially the same formula gets a bit stodgy after awhile; it’s only so often that you can hear someone’s been stupid for varying reasons. It’s almost as if Gundersen gets so far and then runs out of ideas, which is a real shame because it dilutes an otherwise stellar effort. The lyrics also act in a rather contradictory way, although I accept that this is a rather self-defeating criticism! It does become a bit ‘he’s said this, when he said that…’, as such you can’t shake the meandering feeling of the album as a whole, even though the individual songs are well-composed and well-written.
Gundersen is far from the finished article, and he’s one to keep your eye fixed on (although I don’t think he’s the type of person to release 5 albums in 4 years, if you get my drift). This album though, seems more like a compilation of Gundersen’s greatest hits, and if you were to be super-critical it really is too long. However, although there is criticism, it mostly is positive – there’s enough promise on this album to warrant a nice response to a follow-up.
‘Carry The Ghost’ is out now on Dualtone Music Group.