Music Review: White Noise B-Sides
Let me open by saying I am mad.
I WAS GETTING MY LIFE BACK TOGETHER after the year of Gundersen.
Then he had to go and drop this EP of b-sides, and I am once again unable to listen to anything else. This cannot be the decade of Gundersen, I can't afford it, how dare he!
I was aware these existed as 7" records, but I haven't had the money to buy them all, and I wasn't anticipating their being released digitally, so this caught me by surprise.
There are 8 tracks. They don't feel like b-sides to White Noise (an energetic, cohesive, blast of an album from 2017), they feel like their own EP.
White Noise was unabashedly a rock album, and a major departure stylistically from the rest of his catalog: this is more like the older work, softer, with more soaring violin, a surprising amount of pedal steel, and it lets you down into that that mellowed-out feeling you get when you are tired. (Be very careful about listening to this music alone on the road late at night.)
The track White Noise on this release is the most frenzied. Having just finished "A Series of Unfortunate Events" I kept thinking it would have fit well on the soundtrack for that show.
I had seen live video of "California" but somehow listening to it on the record really hit me hard.
The internal rhyme structure is ridiculous! Every single line contains a bit of wordplay and imagery that has had me hitting repeat for days. I get it: this is the entire job of a songwriter. But most of the people this good at writing songs have been around a lot longer than him.
I remember an interview in which he said the songs on White Noise were written to be performable both as solo or acoustic AND with a full band. And I thought most of them really did work that way - the b-sides I don't think translate quite as well to solo, because they're leaning a little more on the instrumentation. (What I'm saying is, while I can see why these didn't make the cut for the album proper, they still stand on their own feet. I'd have loved these even if White Noise didn't exist.)
There's a lot of sadness in this EP. I live for sad music, so I'm not complaining, but the feeling you get out of this is "older and wiser" as opposed to White Noise's vibe of "young and wild."
I can't pick a favorite: the sweeping vocal lines of "Sentimental Kids" (who uses Sisyphean in a song?!) or the vintage Gundersen sound of "Last of the Leavers."
I've mentioned before that I haven't always liked his music. The early stuff just didn't click for me. It took the later, rockier, angrier stuff for me to realize what kind of songwriter he was, and only then was I able to dig into his catalog and appreciate it. I wasn't planning on losing several years of my life to his music, but that's the price you pay. What a time to be alive, when Noah Gundersen has like 5 projects going on at once, and you never know when you're going to get one!