Review: J.E. Sunde – 9 Songs About Love
National Music Reviews
9 Songs About Love
J.E. Sunde = Paul Simon + Buck Meek + Elliot Smith
Jonathan Edward Sunde (J.E. Sunde) writes songs that allow you to drift away to a laid back time in Southern California where everything that rattled out of Laurel Canyon came out glorious and gold. Sunde sounds like those great CSN(Y) albums when Graham Nash took a turn at a song. The classic singer/songwriter influences are all here—it’s easy to close your eyes and find them as Sunde’s songs unfold. At this point, I want to be clear: J.E. Sunde is not a nostalgic act; he also sounds modern, immediate and new.
On his second solo album, 9 Songs About Love, Sunde delivers the same kind of quirky folk songs that he brought to life in the folk trio The Daredevil Christopher Wright. Sunde has proven to be a master at composing easy-going love songs that get your attention in small bites. 9 Songs About Love offers nine songs right in Sunde’s wheelhouse, and he kills every one of them. The record is co-produced by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Paul Simon), and Shane Leonard (Humbird, Anna Tivel), and together they weave Sunde’s nine songs into a perfectly flowing listening experience.
“I’m embarrassed I care this much,” Sunde sings, and that warm heart coats the entire record. “Plane touched down, I read your text / Baggage claim at LAX / Night will claim the day’s regrets,” he sings on the single “Sunset Strip,” “Yes I did wrong but you know I confessed it / I wrote this song just to prove that I meant it / But now you’re gone and I feel empty.” What I love about this record are these type of poetic turns that quickly hook you: “Give me the dirt, you may be surprised / You feel so dirty, no dirtier than I.” (I Love You, You’re My Friend). “I love you like a sailor on some bombed out distant shore / Like the fading blue tattoos that cover his arms.” (Your Love Leaves a Mark on Me). There are so many of these treasures littered across this album. Themes of love, loss and longing are everywhere—especially on the final track “Risk,” where he sings, “Surely there’s some peace in this / That you exist and I exist / With all my pride and selfishness / Has brought me only loneliness / And love’s a risk that’s worth the risk.” J.E. Sunde lets that last refrain repeat as the song fades out.
The instrumentation on 9 Songs About Love match the poetics—these sounds come on softly at the fringes and collapse easily into the songs. The faint horns, subtle tambourines, distant pianos, breezy guitar strumming and hand claps just add to Sunde’s vision. J.E. Sunde may not have the electrified raw heartache of Elliot Smith, or the cathartic reach of Hiss Golden Messenger, but what he does have is that sweet creamer in a warm cup of coffee. Sometimes that’s all you need. –Russ Holsten