The Seattle musician has made a rock album that hearkens back to John Lennon and other greats.
Seattle native Noah Gundersen’s recently released third album, “White Noise,” arrives as a salvo against the notion that rock music simply isn’t made anymore.
That is, not metal, or punk, or indie, or any other ill-defined genre whose meaning has eroded, but the kind of rock music that John Lennon or Bruce Springsteen (or legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who mastered the album) might recognize. It is a defiant, 68-minute hit of the good stuff off the top shelf, and it announces Gundersen as a potent artist coming into his own.
The crackle and fuzz of distorted guitar sparks “After All (Everything All the Time),” giving off a math-y, mid-90s Radiohead vibe before becoming a tidal wall of sound. It’s a confident but subdued start, inviting in longtime fans who dig Gundersen’s singer-songwriter roots while signaling that bigger changes are afoot.
Those changes are immediately evident on “The Sound,” an intoxicating anthem of driving guitars and tasteful synths that would sound at home on most radio stations while still sounding like nothing that actually gets airtime outside of KEXP anymore. Lines like “Hoping that you like, that you like how you’re living/relying on the kindness of strangers that you will be forgiven” serve as affirmation that Gundersen hasn’t lost his insightful bite.
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Recorded in a nondescript warehouse in Ballard affectionately dubbed “The Baitshop” by owner Nathan Yaccino, who produced the album with Gundersen, “White Noise” strikes the perfect balance between authenticity and polish. Gundersen does seem intent on trying on a number of sounds, from the building, kinetic thrum of “Sweet Talker” to “Heavy Metals,” which features the kind of synth work you might hear on the new Tegan and Sara album.
Most familiar is “Bad Desire,” a ballad which feels like Gundersen slipping into his favorite worn-out jeans. But even that song has some nifty guitar and organ work that would have been absent on his earlier albums.
“White Noise” might lose a little steam toward the end but patience is rewarded. After “Dry Year,” a downer no matter how you slice it, “Send The Rain (To Everyone)” is a triumphant denouement that ends the album with the same wall of sound that it began with.
It’s foolish to think a guy who hasn’t reached his 30th birthday has peaked, but “White Noise” represents the high watermark for Gundersen’s career so far and is one of the best albums of 2017.