Noah Gundersen’s latest album bears all
Singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen’s latest album Lover captures the mood of a certain time—a journey into after-hours, dream-like spaces, exploring the uncertainties of loving and being loved. Compared to previous albums, this feels like Gundersen’s most vulnerable work.
The album took about a year to make and is a culmination of songs co-written with producer Andy Park and of older songs Gundersen had been working on for some time. Some songs on the album were ones he wrote in a span of days up in a cabin in Bellingham, Wash., and others like “All My Friends” and “Crystal Creek” were songs he had never really found a place for until this album. There’s a lot Gundersen is bearing in this record and this open-book approach to some of his past hardships with drugs, love and depression feels resonant and somehow hopeful.
“It’s the most honest thing I’ve ever made,” he said. “It’s all me. It’s all different parts of me.”
Through metaphors and experiences, the album traces Gundersen’s late 20s with lovers and friends, and in it there’s a real sense of grappling—songs addressing love from different angles, whether it’s questioning love, sacrificing for love, losing love, loving love, the memory of love.
“I think we’re told a lot of things about what love is, what it’s supposed to mean, what it’s supposed to accomplish for us and how it’s supposed to fulfill us or complete us,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of my life looking for different things from people and relationships and love, and ultimately being let down and letting other people down because of expectations and shortcomings. There’s that journey in the record.”
The title track “Lover” is an embodiment of the album and this journey that ultimately reaches a self-realization and fulfillment. In it, Gundersen sings: “I don’t need no lover/I need a mother to come to my room/I don’t need no father/I need an ocean to carry my mood/And I need your love.”
“[‘Lover’] summed up a lot about me,” he said. “There’s a sadness to it. There’s a tragicness to it, but there’s also that kind of empowerment to that song that says ‘I don’t need someone else to complete me, but you know, I still love love.’”
Other songs like “Audrey Hepburn” are haunting, creating an atmospheric and spacey mood with lyrics reflective of the album’s overall tone: “We rode together in the wind, vanished in a dream/Where the nights went on forever, the last stand of something free/There was a warning you neglected to receive/From your beloved Audrey Hepburn, never love a wild thing.”
“We wanted to make a lyric based singer-songwriter song that also had interesting and weird sounds in it that captured a mood,” Gundersen said. “I was trying to capture the feeling of a certain time of a certain relationship in a certain space that I was in in my life that was kind of dreamlike.”
“All My Friends,” the one up-beat song on the album, stands out as this 20s-going-to-live-forever anthem, reflecting on the highs of being high and alive. The juxtaposition of this song, especially paired with most of the tone in the rest of the album, feels necessary. It reflects on the moments in Gundersen’s journey where he was partying and doing drugs, moments of naive invincibility.
With other songs like “Crystal Creek” and “Out of Time,” there’s something lonely in the pursuit of love. Gundersen spoke to those moments of sadness and depression.
“I think it’s easy to, especially as a ‘self-proclaimed sad bastard singer-songwriter,’ to romanticize your pain,” he said. “I’m learning how to accept some of these things more instead of feeling like I have to rage against them or bury them. That the act of being human is a lot of different things. And if you bury one thing, you’re inevitably burying other things.”
He also explained how therapy, music and meditation allowed him to have a more clear picture of his own internal workings and anxieties and moments of depression.
Listening to Gundersen’s album feels like living out some of those moments alongside him. The aches are there, the highs and lows of love, the loneliness and empty feelings all coalesce into a memoir of an album that is as painful as it is hopeful and relatable.
“It’s a record about someone getting broken and someone searching for love and for fulfillment and recognizing their shortcomings and believing that they are worthy of love, and sometimes being worthy of love is just worthy of your own love for your yourself.”
Noah Gundersen is currently on the last leg of his tour and will be playing on Nov. 12. at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland.