Noah Gundersen – White Noise 
Noah Gundersen - White Noise

Release Date: 22nd September 2017

There are restaurants you can go to where you eat in the dark to heighten your senses of taste and smell which allows you to appreciate the food more by shutting off your sight. I feel like blindfolds might be easier but who am I to argue with a fad? And at least you don’t have to get dressed up. There is, however, something to be said for your surroundings and how they impact on your senses but I’ve listened to this album in the sun, rain and wind, in my car, in my home and walking the streets, in good health and with chronic back pain. Whichever way you slice it, it’s an absolute work of genius.

Seattle’s Noah Gundersen is shortly releasing ‘White Noise’ and, in a lot of ways, that’s a good description for the album but once you start to actually listen (y’know, put down your $1000 iPhone and actually listen) you can hear the subtleties and some shiny lyrical nuggets. Opening up with ‘After All’ Gundersen creates a distorted synthetic bass rumble and, a short yelp later, he’s standing in the eye of the storm – all calm, delayed vocals with guitars swirling around him. It’s a beautifully calm start to an album. On ‘The Sound’ there is a more urgent chug and you feel this is where the album starts to hit it’s stride with the first of many great lyrical moments; “just a pain in the ass Johnny Cash middle finger, no shoot ‘em up drugstore quitter is a winner”. This is triumphant, vital and vibrant – just the way I like my music. And women.

Taking a sharp left turn, ‘Heavy Metals’ opens with a rich 80s synth vs beat intro that sounds like the darker cousin of LadyHawke or a Berlin comeback while ‘Number One Hit Of The Summer’ is the real anthem of the album with Buckley-esque guitars and a road trip vibe push everything forwards, relentlessly onwards because there’s no going back. Not now, not ever. One of my favourite song titles in a while, ‘Cocaine Sex & Alcohol (From a Basement in Los Angeles)’ (not sure if the missing comma is intentional but I hope it is), introduces a song built on forlorn pianos, soothing strings and Gundersen’s voice doing that heartbroken, singing through pain with clenched teeth thing to perfection.

Snakes are not jewellery kids
The lo-fi pulse juxtaposing with the delicate piano work on ‘Bad Actor’ is perfect for a film or the darkest of the early hours but it only acts as a pallet cleanser before the main course to come. ‘Fear & Loathing’ is the American anthem from the reality of the Trump era and it’s so good that I’m going to put it in Springsteen territory. As Gundersen tells the story of a rundown American town, Fear & Loathing (population: everyone), you are drawn in to the picture he is painting by the gentle hum of acoustic strum and gentle piano notes as you fall in love with the characters – Quarter backs, Prom queens, old drunks; “no-one gets a break in this town”, “there’s nothing left for us here now, in Fear & Loathing. It’s a beautifully crafted story that the whole album revolves around as it builds from lap steel gentility to an almighty, frustrated crescendo that is the absolute release of years of being down trodden and forgotten about.

After a long fade out, there’s an ominously insistent metronomic beat like the drip of rain after a heavy down pour which brings about the new clarity of ‘Sweet Talk’, replete with high pitched vocals, intricate guitars and an (almost) overdue splash of drums to break the tension. There’s a wonderfully simple piano intro to ‘New Religion’ before the Killers-esque crowd pleasure shifts through the gears with ease before leading in to ‘Bad Desires’, a love song for a generation of defeated romantics. ‘Wake Me Up I’m Drowning’ is one of the most genuinely terrifying songs I’ve ever hear so younger readers may want adult supervision for this. It’s the gently persistent drip of piano notes that build in to a pool, a well, a lake of water that becomes oppressive and weighs down on your soul before Noah Gundersen sings as though this was recorded while he was actually at risk of drowning. Radiohead did the video, Gundersen seems to have taken it a step further to magnificently claustrophobia inducing effect. “It’s just a dream I’m having, wake me up, wake me up I’m dreaming and I can’t swim, wake me up, wake me up….again” – It’s Lynch-level stuff.

The album concludes with two tracks that provide something approach closure after this experience. Firstly, ‘Dry Year’ is a clean, pure acoustic and vocals track that feels like Gundersen possibly wrote it as he recorded it, such is the stream of consciousness lyrical theme. And then, to finish, we have ‘Send The Rain (To Everyone)’, another of Gundersen’s softer, more intimate songs that show off those song writing skills again. This is an album I could (and will) listen to again and again. There is triumph and despair, love and loss, anger and peace. All of human life is reflected here and that is in no way an easy task. Noah Gundersen has, with this album, put himself in amongst the great modern American songwriters like Dylan, Springsteen and Buckley, those who only need surnames and if their president lets them down in the worst possible way then you could do no better thing than taking this album in to your fallout shelter with you. 

Live Dates:

15th September – Bitterzoet, Amsterdam
5th October – The Olympic, Boise
6th October – The State Room, Salt Lake City
7th October – Armory, Fort Collins
8th October – Bluebird Theater, Denver
10th October – Fine Line Music Café, Minneapolis
12th October – High Noon Saloon, Madison
13th October – The Back Room Café, Minneapolis
14th October – The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
15th October – The Opera House, Toronto
17th October – The Belmont, Montreal
18th October – The Sinclair, Cambridge
20th October – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
21st October – Wonder Bar, Asbury
22nd October – World Café Live, Philadelphia
24th October – 9:30 Club, Washington
25th October – Visulite Theater, Charlotte
26th October – Cannery Callroom, Nashville
27th October – Revelry Room, Chattanooga
28th October – Terminal West, Atalanta
29th October – The Grey Eagle, Asheville
31st October – Saturn, Birmingham
2nd November – The Heights Theater, Houston
3rd November – The Kesler Theater, Dallas
4th November – Barracuda, Austin
6th November – Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix
8th November – El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles
9th November – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
10th November – Hi-Fi Music Hall, Eugene
11th November – Wonder Ballroom, Portland
12th November – Imperial, Vancouver
17th November – Neptune Theatre, Seattle