Review Summary: Noah Gundersen's debut album is the unsung tale of a broken man, full of loss and uncertainty, heartache and sacrifice, asking questions we'd rather not know the answers to.
Like all folk singer-songwriters, Noah Gundersen can be referred to using a synecdoche -- or, in less pretentious wording: someone in which a single characteristic is used to describe them as a whole, or vice versa. While the term itself isn’t the most well known, we see it all the time. I mean, just think about it. Whenever a particular team or individual wins the gold in an Olympic event, we don’t say it was a win for [insert team/individual], we say it was a win for [insert country] because depending on the context, the specifics are either what’s most important or least important. As it so happens, folk artists, arguably more than those of any other genre, can be used in the exact same way, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The narrative-driven lyrics are such a defining aspect of these musicians that we can aptly refer to them as storytellers even though that’s only a single aspect of their role. But what is the point of such superfluous clarifications? Well, it’s simply that more than a singer, or guitarist, or any other sort of musician, Noah Gundersen is first and foremost a storyteller, and it's a point that needs proclaiming.
Truly, Gundersen's debut album, Ledges
, is the unsung tale of a broken man, full of loss and uncertainty, heartache and sacrifice, asking questions we'd rather not know the answers to. And if that sounds vague, well, it’s supposed to be. The topics Gundersen cracks his lips over are topics we all know so well they don’t need elaborating on to be more impactful. Sure, that means they’re topics we’ve heard time and time again, but that only makes them hit closer to home. When Noah sings “I’m not thinking of you anymore/not the way you want me to/ I don’t even want to/ or maybe I do…” on “Liberator” you feel in one simple sentence all the resentment, bitterness, anger, and ultimately doubt we feel when we’re nearing the end of a collapsing relationship. Yet, it’s the simple, life-encompassing lines like this that Noah sings on track after track to the point where his words aren’t just universal -- they’re deeply personal. When he sings on “Cigarettes" “You don’t have me anymore, but the truth is you do/ I keep coming back to you ‘cause honey, you’re smooth,” he’s presenting a side that even among folk artists is uncommonly raw. And sure, while I could get into the musical side of the album, detailing every arpeggio guitar lick, weeping violin solo, and rhythmic tap, would it really matter? It's folk. The music, while definitely enjoyable on Ledges
, sits on the wayside just as it does on the work of nearly ever other intimate folk artist. Because after all, isn't the way a storyteller tells his tale less important than the tale itself?