Release Date: Mar 3, 2017
Record label: PLZ
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Pleasure arrives as Sondre Lerche's eighth studio album--ninth, should we include his soundtrack for the otherwise forgotten rom-com Dan In Real Life, which today seems an appropriately off-kilter retrospective of the tones and textures dominating his career's first half. Since 2001 debut Faces Down cast the then-teenaged Scandinavian singer-songwriter as a winsome prodigy, he's both charmed and irritated a critical press left wondering whether such a preternatural talent for popcraft would always feel somewhat squandered via genre wanderlust or willful eccentricities. If his fanciful wordplay, bristling intelligence, and restless muse deserved the regular comparisons to occasional tourmate Elvis Costello, it's only this year's model.
Either Norwegian artist Sondre Lerche isn't quite old enough or he refuses to allow youth to be wasted on the proverbial young. Pleasure, Lerche's latest full-length, arrives in full regalia, a dazzling (and dizzying) display of bleeps and bloops, bells and whistles. The opening one-two punch of New Order then New Edition ("Soft Feelings" followed by "I'm Always Watching You") sets the spirited tone for what eventually becomes a vivid album front to back, a musical version of a peacock's plumage, if you will.
Pleasure, like its predecessor, Please, presents Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche as he had never been heard before: a total mess. On the six studio LPs leading up to 2014’s Please, Lerche explored a range of emotions, but rarely did the music ever stray too far afield of the smooth jazzy-pop that he refined to perfection on albums like Heartbeat Radio (2009). The windy structure of Two Way Monologue‘s (2004) title track and the distorted punk chord progressions on Phantom Punch (2006) are notable instances of Lerche’s edgier compositional side, but even in those instances the songs sound undeniably contained, smoothed over with proficient production.
After a few albums in a row that staked out Sondre Lerche's claim as one of the better sophisticated pop craftsmen around, especially on 2014's Please, the Norwegian crooner takes a whiplash-inducing left turn on his 2017 album Pleasure. He carefully sets aside the guitar-heavy, almost middle-of-the-road pop sound he'd so carefully developed in favor of an approach that relies on programmed drums and loads of icy synthesizers, and mostly puts guitars in the passenger seat. Gone are the carefully arranged songs that sound like gems from the early Aztec Camera or Prefab Sprout catalogs.