Released: February Genre: Singer-songwriter / folk Metacritic Rating: 72
There’ve been plenty of releases from the singer-songwriter genre which I’ve enjoyed this year, but there haven’t been any that I’ve enjoyed anywhere near as much as Noah Gundersen’s debut LP. If you’ve been watching Sons Of Anarchy as religiously as I have in 2014 you’ll have likely heard his music a few times, but it was last year that I first heard of this Canadian born artist, after following a link to David from a tweet by British now-folk rockers Deaf Havana. Safe to say I fell in love instantly, and I fell in love with Ledges almost as instantaneously when I first listened to it earlier this year. Ledges is a record which is very easy to love; it flickers throughout with an honest, heartfelt sincerity and vulnerability, painfully understandable and excellently expressed, told using plentiful emotion and true talent. Sure, Gundersen’s style is one which is tried and true, but it loses none of its impact in his own retelling of it. Of all the records of this nature I’ve heard in 2014 none have felt as genuine as Ledges has, listening to it I get the sense that every single word matters, that each strum of the guitar feels absolutely vital to the player. Gundersen’s music is essential to him, and it becomes essential to the listener because it matters to its creator and those he seeks to affect. Take opener Poor Man’s Son, which is sparse initially, male and female harmonies overlapping beautifully before layers are added over repeated lyrics, building to a moment at which Gundersen lets loose, straining and roaring ‘I don’t need no gold and silver, oh I only need a few new things, oh I would buy a set of pearls for my lover, and just a brand new set of guitar strings’, causing my arms to break out in goosebumps. It’s electrifying music without electrics, and it sets a general theme for Ledges, a record which is quiet and delicate in nature but frequently bursts into passionate life in its bigger, fuller moments. Each mood or tone is pulled off exceptionally, be it the gorgeous introductions to Ledges and Boathouse, or the sublimely somber Time Moves Quickly which closes the album.
Artists similar to Noah Gundersen aren’t particularly rare (a different one accompanies the ending montages of Sons Of Anarchy each week, thank you Sutter) but artists of a similar calibre certainly are, and I haven’t heard any who’ve released something which feels so downright compulsory this year. Throw in the fact that Ledges is a debut full-length and it only becomes more impressive – as if it wasn’t already impressive enough, which it certainly is. Ledges is a harrowing listen which is immersive and rewarding, fine Americana with some real heart behind every second, and I find myself stunned into a submissive silence every time I press play.