Song of the Day: Noah Gundersen – The Sound

Photo by Charlie Shuck

Photo by Charlie Shuck

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Morning Show with John Richards, is “The Sound” by Noah Gundersen, off the album White Noise, out September 22nd on Cooking Vinyl.

Noah Gundersen – The Sound (MP3)

If you’re at least tangentially familiar with Noah Gundersen’s music, there are some images that may come to mind: a lone performer, either sitting on a stool in a dark room or standing on stage with an acoustic guitar and the occasional violin accompaniment. Maybe there’s some rustic-chic flannel involved. And for most of his career, you’d be right. Gundersen has been a faithful folk singer-songwriter, troubadour, whatever you want to call him for nearly a decade in this city. He’s pretty damn good at it too. But as he continued to venture down this promising career path, Gundersen found himself questioning if his heart was into it. With his new album, White Noise, he’s pushing himself to write songs that feel pertinent to who he is now. And who he is now is louder than that visage of a songwriter alone on the stage.

Longtime fans of Gundersen won’t be totally surprised by this new incarnation. Gundersen’s flirted with plugging in and turning up the guitars throughout his career, most notably when he briefly transitioned his band Noah Gundersen & The Courage to just The Courage and released Fearful Bones back in 2010. Though that record retained the sweeping string arrangements and resonant ballads he’s become known for, it also gave him the freedom to burn through chugging riffs and howling vocal lines. It was a remarkable and well executed turn for the young artist, and for a moment it felt like it’d be the direction he was going to head into. However, Gundersen quickly turned back to his folkier material on 2011’s Family, embracing the intimacy of his voice and laying himself bare with sparse arrangements. A slew of records later, including 2015’s Carry The Ghost, Gundersen is now ready to return to the full band sound. But it sounds like those years away from this sound has had a profound impact on who he is now as an artist, as evidenced on the single “The Sound.”

“How many times will you shit on what you’re given? How many times till you shut up and listen?” Gundersen sings on the song’s third verse. It’s easy to read into these lyrics as Gundersen pleading with himself, but it still carried conviction for the listener as well — heading a warning of what could happen if you don’t take those words to heart. A steady bass line bellows underneath him, laying a foundation for a geyser of guitars to rush in on the chorus. The nostalgic lyrics, the beastly onslaught of distortion, and bashing drums all feel natural to Gundersen. This isn’t a reinvention. It’s a return to self, or at least part of the journey to finding one’s self. Maybe someday he’ll return to those quiet, delicate songs he’s done before and that will bring him the elusive satisfaction he’s sought for in his art. Maybe not. But for now, it feels good and right to hear him screaming these words.

You can tune in to KEXP and hear Gundersen perform an in-studio on Friday, September 22nd at 9:30 AM. Keep up to date on all of his future happenings by following him on Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, revisit his last in-studio below.

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