Noah Gunderson: Carry the Ghost a Haunting Release

Carry the Ghost
Dualtone (2015)
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Here's a name to remember: Noah Gunderson. The Seattle-born Gunderson has been kicking around since 2008 and has a few EPs to his credit, plus Ledges, his 2014 full-length recording. If his second LP, Carry the Ghost, attracts the notice it deserves, folks across the continent will come to know this talented young singer songwriter. Gunderson claims Neil Young as his inspiration for Carry the Ghost, especially the rawness of Young's Tonight's the Night. The influences can definitely be heard on "Heartbreaker," a song whose emotional wallop is carried through a pain-laden voice atop a quiet guitar.  Also like Young, many of the songs are neither bitter nor sweet, rather something that lies within the seam between them. On "Jealous Love," Gunderson implores "I want it better than I've ever had," yet he dangles on a wobbling wire that makes us think it's not going to turn out that way. Another Neil Young trait is the way in which Gunderson lures us into thinking we're in for a quiet song and then cuts us with a hard edge. Gunderson's "Slow Dancer" opens with tristful piano and sad memories, and then adds percussion and electric guitar. It's not cacophonous, but the thicker mix adds fuel to lyrics such as "Light it up again, burn like a holy fire/Light me up again if it makes you feel free." Yep—a lot of these songs are what Gunderson calls "post-relationship" musings.

Having made the Neil Young comparison, though, don't see Noah Gunderson as a Neil-clone. He's a much better singer than Young and possesses a voice capable of climbing to the upper register, but adorned with controlled husk. The singer of whom he most reminds me is Ellis Paul, both in some of his vocal qualities and in his writing, a blend of the tender, the sad, and the introspective. I liked Carry the Ghost so much I checked out a few things from Ledges. "Guardian Angel" would certainly be at home in Paul's repertoire, especially in the way that Gunderson casts illusions with his voice. When you hear it the first time it sounds like poetry, but what you're hearing is the way Gunderson wrings suggestive meaning from relatively simple lyrics. Listening to Noah Gunderson is often like a fist in a velvet glove. Will it strike, or caress? Check out this lyric from "Bag of Glass": "In a bag of broken glass/It's not the parts of busted hope/It's the memories of then past." Noah Gunderson has earned his way onto my playlist. Make him part of yours as well.
Rob Weir

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