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Album Review: Noah Gundersen - ‘If This is the End’

Dear Mr. Noah Gundersen,


I will be honest with you; I had to step out of my comfort zone to write a review for your album. That’s saying a lot. This year, there was Mac DeMarco’s Five Easy Hot Dogs, Beach Fossils’ Bunny, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s V. Even though I love Brijean’s Moody, the three albums I mentioned earlier went way beyond that weighted word. After a year during which bands came out ready to tour and show out again, 2023 has seen a world overwhelmed by anger, turmoil, and pressures we should not have to deal with. Yet, musicians are taking it on.

​Vulnerability is what I focused on. These musicians opened up to their darkest fears and shared them with the world. For Mac DeMarco’s album, I wrote, “Allowing oneself to be vulnerable is crucial along a spiritual/life journey.” About UMO, I wrote, “It is upbeat, but parts of it hang on like baggage. It is being present but feeling the weight of problems from the past and stresses of the future.” Then, after listening to Beach Fossils, I wrote, “While a photograph captures an image, music captures time and feeling. When done properly, a musician is an emotional historian.” Well, sir, you take it to a whole other level.


​A respected advisor from Goddard College, Rhana Reiko Rizzuto, said in a keynote speech, “Stand in the absences. Fill in the blank space. Probe the places in the narrative where you just don’t get it, or where you can feel a tension between what you would feel and what they say.” I took that as the creative individual should produce what first comes to mind, then visit what you left out because of fear or uncertainty. Yet, I also believe that to “stand in the absences” means we have to fill the voids we feel. If no one else is producing albums intended to be the message in a bottle that washes ashore at just the right time, then, sir, be that moment.


​As creative individuals, we hope to leave behind something that lifts someone. I remember being at Coventry in 2004 for Phish. Before set one of night one, all of us Phans talked about how we were hearingthem for the last time ever. They opened with “Walls of the Cave.” “I’m leaving you a message/I’m leaving you a trace/I’m leaving thoughts for you/I hope that time will not erase.” It instantly became my favorite song. Trey was singing to me, and I needed to hear that.


​I will openly admit that this album is a lot slower than anything I typically listen to. However, that does not mean I cannot appreciate it. Although the lyricsare heavy, “Swim” is upbeat enough musically to keep me interested. When you harmonize with Abby, the song enters a whole other level. It is truly a beautifulsong.

​“Everything Is New” made me imagine sitting with my wife at a small jazz club. We are in a new city with new jobs, looking for a place to become regulars, and you are performing this song. We cannot help but pay attention. My wife reaches over, holds my hand, and gives it a squeeze. We feel peace and comfort.

​“Headlights” is another song I gravitate towards. The acoustic guitar and your voice. Even though you mention John Denver in “If This Is The End,” you sound most like him in this one.


​By the end of the album, I am sentimental and thinking about my Grandpa Stowe, the times in my life when this album would have hit the hardest, and my children. Yet, I do not feel sorrow or pain. My sentimental thoughts are badges and plagues. I have worked through manychallenging emotions recently and am stronger than ever. And I attribute that to my creative output, searching for answers and softly whispering comforts into readers’ ears.

Mr. Noah Gundersen, I hope you found peace creating this album, and I hope bloggers like myself can be the current that washes your message in a bottle ashore to those who need it the most.

 

Sincerely,

Jesse R Stowe

 

Final Thought: I don’t know if this works as a review, but it’s what I got today.

 

Favorite songs: “Swim,” “Everything Is New,” and “Headlights”

 

4.5 out of 5 (because this album takes vulnerability to new heights and is musically beautiful.)

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