the year of Gundersen
I spent 2018 underwater, trying not to drown, sucking air through a coffee stirrer. That's how it felt, anyway. I didn't get much of anything written because it was difficult staying afloat.
The metaphorical coffee stirrer, the only thing that added any air to the situation, was Noah Gundersen's music. I'd be embarrassed about how many hours I've spent on his entire discography (it's either WAY TOO MUCH or NOT NEARLY ENOUGH) but then again I'm just happy to not have drowned yet, so here we are. (The Spotify end-of-year figures were, well, I have a problem. We knew that already.)
Some years ago, probably after his "Christian family band" stage and during his "white-boy-with-dreadlocks" stage, I took one look at him, and one listen to his soft plaintive guitar songs, and went "NO THANKS." (I was in a bluegrass or Led Zeppelin only stage at the time, so this was probably not his fault.) Despite the occasional appearance of one of his songs on my Spotify or Pandora feeds, or hearing what I didn't know was his music on various TV shows, I went on for the next few years completely unaware that he was no longer making Nice Christian Music and that he had ditched the dreadlocks in favor of rock 'n roll and hand tattoos.
Here we arrive at the October 2017 portion of the story. The Torreys were visiting, and Joshua put Young in the City (a Gundersen-fronted side project, which has put out just 2 delightful EPs so far) on the stereo, and I was stopped in my tracks by "Annie."
Literally: I went wandering from the kitchen into the living room with a half-peeled apple in my hand because WHAT WAS PLAYING ON THE SPEAKERS RIGHT NOW? I have only been that arrested by a song a few times in my life. I listened to almost nothing else for the rest of 2017.
Right around the start of 2018 I started listening to White Noise (Gundersen’s 2017 solo album) and there went a few more months. And then there was “Killer + The Sound” (single with Phoebe Bridgers), then “Wrong Side” (single with Sisters). Then in the fall the Glorietta album dropped, and boom, there goes a year.
I ended up foraying into his back catalog (and years worth of Youtube videos) and found that the soft plaintive guitar songs are actually kind of good when you're in the right mood. I may or may not have fallen asleep during those panic attack nights with "Send the Rain" playing quietly, may or may not have yelled along with "Gold in the Sun," may or may not have driven fast and angry to "Number One Hit of the Summer (Fade Out)."
It was the Year of Gundersen, a sort of black hole, but an enjoyable one. It was not an easy year for me: I needed company and constance, and found both in his music, which went with me everywhere. You could get into figuring out whether it's serotonin or dopamine or some other kind of chemical response, but I don't even care: it helped.