Well hello bloggy world!!! Long time no see. I've got a lot to fill you guys in, but today is Monday so it's music time. I have quite a few album reviews to get through over the next few weeks so lets hit the ground running with Noah Gundersen's February, 2014 release Ledges. I first came into contact with Noah Gundersen through my good friend Liz Johnson (you can check out her blog here). I immediately fell in love with his folk sound and his tender, story-telling lyrics. His EPs Family and Saints & Liars quickly became a music staple, but his first full length album has been playing non-stop on my Spotify account! Seriously, if I can't figure out what I'm in the mood for I switch Ledges on because I'm always in the mood for it!
The only word I can think of that describes this album entirely is sublime. It is a pretty near perfect production of modern folk that I can't get enough of. Gundersen's lyrics are rife with tenderness, sensuality, honesty and Biblical imagery, and his songs are accompanied by a thoughtful blend of acoustic guitar, soaring fiddle (the occasional percussion), and complementary backing vocals.
The album begins quietly with Poor Man's Son, which starts out acapella and eventually introduces a fervent, solo guitar. Gundersen's vocals blend with his backing vocalists in beautiful acapella harmony which increases in closeness as the song reaches it's climax. The second track Boathouse starts with blasts of percussion, guitar and fiddle. The instruments don't overwhelm the lyrics which are wholesome, tragic and heartfelt: "Boathouse, coming down the river. Boathouse, carry them to safety, up from the Mississippi mud. For I lost my love". This is followed up by the quiet and parable-like Isaiah. For a song mostly about infidelity, it uses a lot of Biblical imagery as it borrows much of its chorus from Isaiah 41:10 "Fear thou not, my right hand will hold you, fear thou not."
The themes of life, death, change, and goodbyes run through the album. Separator is an odd song with strange imagery "Don't you wish you could go back? When your heart sang like a burning branch, when your songs sang themselves from the bottom of a well. Yellow eyes starward bound." Poison Vine trudges along, sounding as tired as Gundersen himself as he sorrows over the shortness and mediocrity of his life "I know the fire goes out, but be to work on time". In Dying Now Gundersen, seemingly at the end of his life, mourns his broken relationships and desires to fix them. Liberator, Cigarettes (only Gundersen can use the imagery of smoking and make it almost romantic) and Time Moves Slowly all speak of broken relationships and memories which Gundersen cannot get over or forget.
The two most notable tracks however are Ledges and First Defeat. The title track is a passionate ode to changing one's character for the better and is probably the track you'll end up singing in the shower. First Defeat is an angst filled last encounter; you can almost hear the tears in Gundersen's eyes as he howls out the bridge. It's a beautiful, delicate song and it's probably my favourite track on the album (and it was featured on one of my favourite shows Suburgatory).
As first album's go Ledges is a smashing start. It's lyrically beautiful, and musically refreshing. I've been listening to it since it came out in February and I haven't tired of it yet! Have a listen and let me know what you think!
PS: Oh and hope you had a better than most Monday!