Artist: Noah Gundersen
Despite his young age, Washington-based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen has wasted no time establishing himself as a musical force to be reckoned with. Bursting on to the scene in the summer of 2008 with his debut EP Brand New World, the then 19-year-old immediately began turning heads with his velvety exposition and razor-sharp lyrics, and would go on to release two additional EPs, as well as a complete album with the help of his former band, The Courage. A regular contributor to popular television dramas such as Sons of Anarchy and The Vampire Diaries, Gundersen’s unique brand of honest indie-folk has garnered a devoted and ever-growing fan base.
On his debut LP Ledges, Gundersen continues to add to his already impressive list of releases by crafting a thought-provoking rollercoaster. Recorded at Seattle’s Studio Litho, the album itself is calculated and unyielding, somersaulting its way around a menagerie of heavy, yet unavoidable topics. The young songwriter’s provocative work has been spread across 11 original tracks, resulting in a cohesive effort whose beauty and focus make it destined for subsequent listens.
This is apparent from the album opener, “Poor Man’s Son.” An integral fixture in Gundersen’s live performance, within seconds listeners are shrouded in ebbing group vocals accompanied only by stark silence. With Noah’s wispy voice leaping just slightly higher than those of his peers, what starts as a gentle ripple slowly swells to a towering crescendo, setting a powerful backdrop for the songs to come.
The album’s title track finds Gundersen searching for relevance by intimately showcasing his inner most fears, all in an effort to find out what makes “a better man.” This pervasive hunt for purpose thrives on structural simplicity, and cascades forward with the support of an airy violin hook. “First Defeat” is another wonderfully accessible track, its relatable lyrics offering a wealth of commercial potential, while “Cigarettes” bounds along with a confidence usually reserved for songs of more upbeat topic matter. The closer, “Time Moves Slowly,” also stands alone. Void of guitar, this melancholy piano arrangement only further confirms Gundersen’s versatility as a musician, providing a pensive sign-off whose tenderness will almost certainly leave jaws on the floor.
I could delve into more detail, but I won’t waste your time. Though I have not referenced every one of Ledges‘ 11 tracks, let me be clear–there is not one bad song on this album. True enough, though some are better than others, at the end of the day, even the smallest diamond is still a diamond. Noah Gundersen has written one of the most gripping debuts in recent memory, and at 24 years old, the sky is the limit for this up-and-comer. I highly suggest you pick up your own copy of Ledges when it hits shelves this coming Tuesday (February 11).
Review written by: Kyle Florence