Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Mona
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
"To divert my mind/I try to make another love song rhyme," Sondre Lerche sings on his sixth album. That this couplet (in "Coliseum Town") technically fails to rhyme itself is just one of many wry touches on Sondre Lerche. The Norwegian-born singer/songwriter mixes his usual verbose confessionals with sparser production than on past efforts, sifting in raw, chilly blues ("Tied Up to the Tide") and touches of country ("Go Right Ahead").
At only 28, Sondre Lerche finds himself at a premature career crossroads: what more does he have to say? Think about it: he busted out of the gates as a fully formed teenaged songwriting talent on 2002’s Faces Down. Since then, he’s done a stylistic zigzag on the Chet Baker-aping Duper Sessions, soundtracked a film (however slight) with Dan in Real Life and released another three albums of damn enjoyable pop. That’s a full, enviable career right there.
After a long string of records where exploring different genres seemed almost as important as the songs themselves, Sondre Lerche’s 2009 album Heartbeat Radio was the first record in awhile that felt like it was a true musical expression and not some crazy experiment. That trend continues on 2011’s self-titled album. Working with longtime musical partner Kato Ådland, and with production by Nicolas Vernhes, the album isn’t flashy and doesn’t have an angle.
Sondre Lerche's last album, Heartbeat Radio, paired the Norwegian singer-songwriter's melodic pop tunes with ill-fitting orchestral arrangements, making for a mess of a record. His new, eponymous set is a definite course correction, with a stripped-down production style that allows Lerche's strong hooks and distinctive tenor to take center stage. Lead single “Private Caller” is Lerche's catchiest should-be hit to date, scurrying along to steady, insistent acoustic guitar chords until Lerche lapses into an unexpected falsetto as he charges headlong into the song's hook.
It’s interesting to think that, despite being only 28, Sondre Lerche is already a well-worn professional musician. (While I can’t say I’m quite sure what the vacant stare he’s giving on the album indicates, the redness around his eyes could maybe mean fatigue?) Beginning in 2002 with his breakthrough, Faces Down, he’s released six studio albums, waiting only until now finally to give an album his name. 2009’s Heartbeat Radio, his sixth studio outing, was chock full of bold, dramatic pieces that often culminated in swirling, gorgeous string arrangements.
The most notable constant in Sondre Lerche's career so far has been change. The restless Norwegian has a wide range of musical curiosities, and in 10 years and seven albums he's covered quite a bit of ground, from the subdued, Nick Drake-inspired folk of Faces Down to the Chet Baker jazz of The Duper Sessions to the harder rock of Phantom Punch. Perhaps his most representative work to date has been the soundtrack to the largely forgotten Steve Carell flick Dan in Real Life, and that's primarily because it shuffles new tracks and scene-setting instrumentals among songs from his previous albums, as if Lerche meant to take stock of his own past.
Self-titling a record that isn’t one’s first is always a risky move. An eponymous album inevitably implies some kind of definitive statement right off the bat, so if the content doesn’t stack up, the artist may end up seeming uninspired or even—for lack of a better word (or, as the case may be, lack of a better title)—lazy. As such, while Norwegian-born singer/songwriter/all-around cutie pie Sondre Lerche’s seventh LP, Sondre Lerche, is by no means a bad record, it fails to live up to its self-inflicted expectations.
Sondre Lerche has come a long way. His first album, the hypnotically sweet and strangely sinister Faces Down, dropped a decade ago, when Lerche was just 18. Now, at 28, releasing his self-titled sixth album, he’s managed to retain most of what made him so appealing ten years ago while attempting to apply his newfound maturity to his sound. Perhaps it’s the American influence – born in Norway, this is the first album he has recorded in his adopted hometown of Brooklyn – but in many ways it seems as though Lerche has lost a little of what was so special about him, that weird, ghostly boy-wail so prominent in his earlier albums.