Gradually expanding his sound in terms of palette and intensity since his earliest acoustic folk releases in the late 2000s, Noah Gundersen seemed to hit a dramatic peak with 2017's White Noise, his third long-player. Alongside contrasting quieter passages, washes of synths, strings, and electric guitars in tandem with drumming suitable for arena-sized settings brought his intimate songs to lofty heights. His fourth album, Lover, stays in the same sonic territory of White Noise while presenting even more personal lyrics, many concerned with surveying failed or doomed relationships. Gauzy opening track "Robin Williams" is about that and not explicitly the actor/comedian, who instead serves as a nihilistic illustration of the fate that awaits us all ("The reaper makes the final joke"). Elsewhere, the titular Audrey Hepburn is a beloved idol of the true subject of a song that mixes gentle acoustic guitar and piano with glitchy samples and ghostly electronic noise. Midway through the track, Whitney Ballen begins shadowing Gundersen's murmured vocals, and spacy synths close out the song. Another atmospheric entry, "Little Cup," delves into electronic textures including vocal effects and murky synth timbres, along with the staticky noise of the inner groves of a vinyl record. On the louder end of the spectrum, the penultimate "All My Friends" adopts effervescent R&B-pop that somehow doesn't seem particularly out of the place after the album traverses yearning, acoustic-leaning fare ("Watermelon," "Wild Horses"), warped electronic balladry ("Older," "Out of Time"), and catchy electric-acoustic pop ("Lose You") to get there. Stranger is that Lover's heartache and lilting melodies sometimes come off like country material with downtempo electronic production. Weighted toward poignancy but with moments to breathe, while hard to place, Lover succeeds in coming across like a single, cohesive, vulnerable work.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson