The Upshot: The perfect choice for the Sunday morning after, when staying home and lazing in bed becomes the first option prior to the day’s duties.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Forlorn troubadours never seem to go out of style. Whether it’s a teen sensation wailing about losing a lover and crying in the chapel, or a forever downtrodden folkie of Nick Drake’s ilk, loss and lament have always been ideal song fodder. It’s not always the most inspiring subject matter but it does seem bountiful given the fact that, as human beings, disappointment and sadness seem inbred into our DNA.
Noah Gunderson embraces that sentiment entirely, and his new album, the tellingly titled Carry The Ghost, is tempered with a feeling of such absolute despair that it’s difficult to cite any cause for optimism. It’s a tact he’s taken for most of his career, beginning with his first album, Brand New World in 2006, continuing through his efforts with his one-time band The Courage, and eventually forwarded into a series of EPs he produced on his own. His last album, Ledges, was quite well received, so much so that his music eventually found its way onto the soundtrack of two TV shows, Sons of Anarchy and “Vampire Diaries. Those particular programs have always been receptive to music of a particularly melodramatic nature, but Gunderson’s hazy inclinations seem particularly well-suited to their stance.
That’s all too evident on Carry The Ghost, given its sense of all pervading melancholia is so absolutely enduring it affects the album overall. Indeed, it’s hard to find any reason for cheer here. On the song “Planted Seeds,” Gunderson carefully cites the underlying cause of his misery. “You and Me/ Before we became enemies/ Had found a safer place to be/ Out here in the rain/ Comfort me,” he croons, grasping for reason and reconciliation. Then there’s this telling verse from “Selfish Art”: “Sometimes making songs for a living/ Feels like living to make songs/ And sometimes I get an uneasy feeling / That I’m doing something wrong.”
Clearly Gunderson has no trouble giving voice to his troubled psyche, and while he often sounds too vulnerable for his own good, it does leave such a clear imprint on the music that the tattered residue is hard to shake. Fortunately, even in the midst of the tribulation, the melodies manage to leave a formidable impression, creating a sound that’s unerringly beautiful and genuinely affecting, even in the wake of its wistful reflection. The beguiling “Silver Bracelet” establishes an solitary atmosphere all its own. Likewise, a song like “Show Me a Light” can plod on solemnly, but the delicate weave of emotion and intent resonate regardless. Moreover, the sublime solace of “The Difference” practically begs its own quiet contemplation.
Granted, Carry the Ghostis hardly the type of album you’d select as background music at your next social gathering, unless, that is, it’s time to disperse the crowd once the hour gets late. Rather, it’s the perfect choice for the Sunday morning after, when staying home and lazing in bed becomes the first option prior to the day’s duties. For all its shattered circumstance, Carry the Ghost makes the most of its heavy baggage.
DOWNLOAD: “Show Me a Light,” “Silver Bracelet,” “Planted Seeds”