Noah Gundersen Remembers the Big Ones — Mostly in Cars, Sometimes with Girls
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DeYarmond Edison, “First Impression”
We’re in her parents’ car. It’s the day after Christmas. I never kissed her when it mattered, but we’re here in the holy season with the fog from our mouths like incense. We listen to this song on repeat for an hour down by the railroad tracks in Centralia, Washington.
Bright Eyes, “At the Bottom of Everything”
I’m walking down the mile-long gravel driveway with headphones on, under a canopy of green alder branches. I bought the CD from the cool girl at the record store in Olympia. I had asked, ‘Have you heard this? Is it cool?’ She nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders and looked away, saying, ‘I’ve never listened to it.’ I remember thinking how the lyrics were sad but the music was happy. What a strange marriage. Maybe I could do something like that. I had an acoustic guitar and knew a few chords.
The Shins, “New Slang”
Out parked on the street. It’s raining and dark, like it has been for months. It goes like this for months in small Washington towns. She’s on top of me. It’s the first time, in the front seat of a Ford Explorer. Not very romantic, but your options are limited at 17. This song was on repeat, over and over, as we struggle with straps and awkward positions. There’s a thunderstorm later that night. She looks up at me and says, ‘What the hell just happened?’ I didn’t know. But the air was electric and I was full of everything.
Dashboard Confessional, “The Sharp Hint of New Tears”
Driving. Trying to make it home in time for curfew. Frustrated and full of angst. Singing every word. I learned how to sing harmony from Chris Carraba. Taking the long road out to the steam plant to watch the lights.
Counting Crows, “Round Here”
People had said, ‘You sound like this guy.’ My friend Evan was driving me home and he put it on and we just kept driving. It felt like everything I had wanted to say, everything that mattered in my emotional world. We listened on repeat, just driving around the back roads where I grew up.
Damien Rice, “The Blower’s Daughter”
How do you cram so much feeling into one song? How do you seem to exorcise your entire soul into a few chords? I have sat alone with this song many times, in the dark. I used to play it at little coffee house shows. ‘I can’t take my mind off of you….’til I find somebody new.’
Pedro the Lion, “Secret of the Easy Yoke”
As a 14-year-old Christian kid, this song’s unflinching honesty made a big impression. Bazan gave a voice to something brewing in me. ‘I still have never seen you and some days I don’t love you at all.’ This was a bold and dangerous statement to make in the faith-based, evangelical world. It was brave, it was honest, it was vulnerable.
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah”
Arguably the greatest song every written. Every word matters. Although Leonard Cohen’s original is king lyrically, Buckley’s vocals and playing in this version totally shaped my approach to guitar and singing.
Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken”
This is my first memory of music. Dancing in the living room with my parents and grandparents while Bob sings a literal list of broken things. Always turned up loud. It’s an absurd and poignant song.
Death Cab for Cutie, “Brothers on a Hotel Bed”
That moment when you’re working up the courage to tell your friend you’re in love with her. Knowing that it could ruin everything. Knowing you may have already lost her. So you sit in the dark car for a while and soak it up.
Bon Iver, “The Wolves (Act I & II)”
I remember the basement Sarah lived in, in the house off Capital Boulevard in Olympia. I remember walking up the stairs with the late summer yellow light coming through the window in that perfect way. And this song on the stereo.
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