New Music 8/23/19: Noah Gundersen

Hot off the presses: new music!  Better said, new music that is worth your time.

Noah

Noah Gundersen – Lover – 13 tracks / 47 minutes

The underappreciated songwriter continues to bring the goods while exploring pop elements on his third proper LP.

 

Noah has been crafting his brand of singer/songwriter fare for over a decade now, and he has a knack for making music that is accessible and catchy enough to suck you in even if you aren’t listening to the lyrics, which are frequently incredibly thought provoking.  While Lover is not quite up to the level of White Noise, it is one of the finest albums of its kind I’ve heard this year.  Side note: I enthusiastically encourage you to see him at The Neurolux if you are in Boise on September 24th.

“There’s a couple things I’m sure of, and a whole lot more I’m not”.  When Noah sings these words on the powerful and heavy opening track “Robin Williams”, it becomes clear that Lover is a thoughtful and introspective work.  The loud electric guitar flourishes couple nicely with the hushed tones of most of the song and get things started off gloriously.  “Lose You” has a pop-heavy sound that would typically turn me away, but when he sings out the chorus it is just too good to deny and when the song gets stripped down to just the man and a piano it is gorgeous.

And then there is the masterpiece of the record: “Out of Time”.  The strings in the background give it a haunting quality that his voice magnifies, and the lyrics and keys give it a dangerous and sinister vibe.  I simply can’t get enough of this song, which reminds me a bit of “Cocaine, Sex & Alcohol” (from White Noise) except that it is compelling on another level.

Over a bountiful cornucopia of sonic happenings “Older” laments not just that we are all aging, but that most of us are too busy doing stupid shit to even realize it.  In sharp contrast is one of the quietest songs on the album: the acoustic guitar driven “Wild Horses”, where Noah sings “I waste a lot of breath on the bullshit, breathe a lot of air that keeps making me sick”.  “So What” has great advice: “Slow down, look up, stop acting so tough; say I love you way too much, and if it kills you, so what”.

Yes, this album does have more drum machine and synths than I would prefer, and the occasional voice distortion/AutoTune does throw me off, but there is so much more good than bad here that I highly recommend this album in particular and this artist’s work in general.

Key Tracks: “Out of Time”, “Robin Williams”, “Lose You”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3RfoIT2yvfZF9TFOMbmrIv?si=21uGkoBMQu2Dj0TVWI7g8Q

 

Also heard:

(ALERT*** lots of country and rap ***ALERT)

Midland –Let It Roll

The fellas are back with more 70s & 80s-inspired country, complete with rhinestones, steel guitar, and catchy gems as well as ballads.  Although I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as On the Rocks, check out “Playboys” and “Fast Hearts and Slow Towns” as examples of Midland at their best.

Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Thank Me

Aside from this being an obvious entry for album title of the year, it is more of what I have come to expect from Snoop – the man still has that unique and original flow that put him on the map, there just isn’t enough of it.  “What U Talkin’ Bout” finds him at his best here, but there is quite a bit of filler throughout the latest collection from one of the greats.

Surfer Blood – Covers

Although I thoroughly enjoyed their 2017 LP Snowdonia, their sound is not one I would have expected to lend itself to re-imaginations of others’ works.  Turns out I get to say I was right on the internet, because most of this comes across as uninspired in my opinion, although I will hand it to them for a diverse selection of songs (Pavement, Modern English, Outkast, Polaris, among others are represented).  “Box Elder” suits their sound really well and “I Melt With You” works, but it can’t forgive the lethargic and lifeless “Hey Ya” cover.

Vince Gill – Okie

Fun fact: the first concert I ever saw was Vince Gill at the Pavilion in Boise circa 1992, and indeed Vince’s was a voice I heard frequently growing up.  It has a healing and spiritual tone, even when he isn’t singing about God and Heaven, which he does quite a bit on Okie.  A tribute to Merle Haggard and their shared Oklahoma roots, this album finds Vince looking back as well as within.  If you have any doubt about Vince’s intention of the title of the album, just give “A World Without Haggard” a listen.

Some of it is just too sappy for me (as has always been the case with him), and for those who don’t mind that sort of thing, this is a treat- particularly the aptly titled “A Letter to My Mama”.  However, even a cynic like me will admit that “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” is marvelously written and that the cathartic “That Old Man of Mine” is a show-stopper.

Obie Trice – The Fifth

Similar to the Snoop snippet above, there isn’t enough hard-core here for me.  Obie is great, but the guest appearances weigh the Detroit MC down.  “Intro” and “Space” both address his relationship with Eminem and the haters that wrote him off as a solo artist.  These two tracks also allow him to get in the zone long enough to qualify as truly badass -and it is a killer blast from the past to hear Xzibit’s verse on the latter track.  Speaking of blast from the past, lead single “92” finds Obie recalling his pager-wearing youth moving dope and scheming the ladies, and although it is a fun listen, overall I’m still waiting for something to approach the greatness of his first two efforts.