Noah Gundersen – ‘Lover’

By Renette van der Merwe

Noah Gundersen is an artist of great ambition – that much is obvious from his numerous musical engagements which includes, but definitely isn’t limited to, The Courage, formed with his sister Abby. The Seattle native’s drive is also evident on his fourth studio album as he leans further into ethereal electronics and synthesisers by taking another great leap away from the gritty, acoustic folk roots of debut album, ‘Ledges’.

Not to say Gundersen hasn’t always had a particular focus on creating ambience, when as far back as the ‘Family’ EP he had already worked in the big, bolstering sound of drums on tracks like ‘Fire’ to create an almost Scandinavian feel. The question is, will fans of those folky atmospherics feel comfortable traversing into the modern, beat-heavy melodies of ‘Lovers’ alongside Gundersen?

If you liked ‘WHITE NOISE’, then there’s hope as the 2017 album, despite having a slightly more uplifting, rock sound overall, definitely saw the seeds ‘Lover’ has blossomed from sown with tracks like ‘COCAINE, SEX & ALCOHOL (FROM A BASEMENT IN LOS ANGELES)’ and ‘BAD ACTORS’. The reliance on electronic elements, autotune and various other effects that are showcased especially on ‘Crystal Creek’ and the title track may have intensified on the new album, but it’s not completely left field and points to an artist capable of growth and the ability to change with the times.

And yet, Gundersen hits the sweet spot when the extras are stripped back. ‘Watermelon’ and ‘Lose You’, both mainly piano led, the twang of a guitar occasionally creeping through, sets the stage for the thing we all fell in love with in the first place; his voice. Strong and brimming with emotion, it’s a nod at those early days whilst also showing progression with subtle beats.

There’s a couple of surprises, including a Muse-esque track called ‘Out of Time’ and a very poppy, albeit summery, ‘All My Friends’, whilst ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Audrey Hepburn’ are steeped in the poetic lyricism and emotional vulnerability Gundersen excels at. The latter song, set to a measured, pulse-like beat, is brooding and sure to become a favourite.

At first glance, die-hard fans might feel disconnected from the new album and it’s flourishes, but in reality ‘Lover’ is still as intimate as its predecessors. If anything, the content is extremely personal to Gundersen who explains it’s about love, failure, drugs, sex, age, regret and peace. Set to a dreamscape of sounds, complemented by the warm qualities of his voice, ‘Lover’ is a step forward from a gifted songwriter constantly evolving.


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