By Kraig Brachman
On his debut solo album Golden, Toronto alt-folk musician Ben Kunder has songs that everyone can relate to. Unfortunately, these themes are overreaching and in the end they simply feel unbelievably generic as he sings about love, leaving and coming back home.
Musically, Golden is built on the foundation of Kunder’s sweet singing and simple guitar. This works when it’s allowed to (”Don’t Dance”) but the majority of the songs have the backing band front and center vying for equal attention, ultimately overpowering the man of the hour. When a successful balance is struck (about half the time) the songs work, such as on “Bags and Barrels” and “Love and Motion.”
It’s unfortunate that production gets in the way of what Golden should be. Oriented towards a radio friendly, three-minute pop-song mindset, it contradicts the intent of Golden, which feels anchored towards Americana, an amalgam of roots music. Kunder’s singing and playing doesn’t lend themselves to pop music; he is a roots singer who would benefit from letting his notes breathe. The stiff mechanical drums and perfect playing behind him also don’t help, as Americana thrives on groove and natural flow.
The Americana genre has recently experienced resurgence in popularity and talent, leaving Kunder at a disadvantage. Ultimately, Kunder doesn’t do anything new and he doesn’t do the old well enough to warrant a recommendation.Ben Kunder, Golden