Music

Sondre Lerche: Heartbeat Radio

The radio plays on and on. The heartbeat flat-lines.


Sondre Lerche

Heartbeat Radio

Label: Rounder / Umgd
US Release Date: 2009-09-08
UK Release Date: 2009-10-05
Amazon
iTunes

The Norwegian transplant Sondre Lerche, a music industry veteran at only 27, possesses considerable talent, but his new album Heartbeat Radio finds him working too hard toward no discernible end. The album is about love in its most mundane forms -- passing the morning paper back and forth over tea, squabbling, driving, chatting. It’s a minor work for minor moods, but it mostly fails to achieve even its modest intentions.

There's a sort of ill-fitting grandiosity to the overall aesthetic -- strings swoon, Lerche's vocals keen, the arrangements build gradually to thundering crescendos -- but it's an empty largeness, music like an airplane hanger. Why all the drama? These aren't desperate or urgent songs. Lerche's virtues -- tight, varied instrumentation; gentle, literate guitar pop; smart and simple song construction -- are the virtues of smallness and care. The arrangements are admirable -- odd, precise, elegant, the many modular transitions sudden yet seamless -- but all the passion and bombast feel phony, put-on, manipulative. Lerche leans too hard on his pose as a wounded young Romeo

The lyrics are barely worth mentioning, neither positive nor negative. Lerche knows how to fit words into song forms, inserting syllables and phrases with the same almost classical-minded precision he brings to his arrangements, but he seems to select words for their crisp and delicate phonetics, their graceful rhymes, with little regard for their meaning. This could work wonderfully if he would really abandon communication, turning his lyrics into tone-poems that interlock, puzzle-like, with his latticework songs, but instead he stays within a very dull mode of heartsick musings and pseudo-sophisticated mumblings. (The one notable exception is “Like Lazenby”, which is built around a battling but somewhat delightful metaphor about the one-time James Bond.) His delivery is clipped and dry, almost sarcastic, and the conflict between his detachment and the gorgeous, endlessly swooning strings is a little bit intriguing, but I'm not sure that such dissonance is something that Lerche intended.

He’s at his best when he drops the Rufus Wainwright shtick and lets his natural charm and naivety shine through. “Words and Music”, his sunny little slice of Paul McCartney pop, tastes like biting into a cool, ripe orange. It’s the best song on the album, vulnerable and sweet and affectionate. It is, in its way, a masterpiece in miniature, perfect for a certain sort of warm, quiet moment, and it’s likely to find a small but permanent place in my life. It’s the exception, though; in general, the love songs don’t sound urgent, and the heartsick songs sound like they stem from an artful pose rather than any real pain. The aesthetic he seems to be pursuing is elegance at any cost; he achieves it handily, but the price is far too high. He sacrifices truth, sincerity, magic, and danger. While there are enough wonderful arrangements and flashes of brilliance to point the way towards a potential masterwork in the still-young Lerche’s future, Heartbeat Radio isn’t much more than supremely well-constructed background music. The album is smothered by care and clockwork.

The radio plays on and on. The heartbeat flat-lines.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image