Music

Sondre Lerche: Sondre Lerche

A step back from the bolder experimentation on previous records, Sondre Lerche unfortunately loses some of the excellence of Lerche's past work.


Sondre Lerche

Sondre Lerche

Label: Mona
US Release Date: 2011-06-07
UK Release Date: 2011-09-05
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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. It was his boldest outing to date, and his best since 2004's Two Way Monologue. Given that his career has been full of twists and turns, from the jaunty rock of 2007's Phantom Punch to the low-key nightclub jazz of 2006's Duper Sessions, there seems to be no indication that Lerche's desire to drop something new with every record was going to wane anytime soon.

It's for that very reason that this record sounds so striking: there's nothing here that sounds like Lerche is pulling a new trick out of his sleeve. Everything on this record is something that he's done before, albeit stripped of past albums's grand arrangements. Overall, Sondre Lerche is a pretty low-key record; the bombastic strings are now on the backburner, and the jazz moments that dominated Duper Sessions are more or less at the forefront. On the one hand, it's a good thing; as good as Heartbeat Radio was, I'm not sure that a Heartbeat Radio, Part Two would have been a solid choice, especially for a songwriter who has staked his career change. On the other hand, once the album's final second has ticked away, it's not clear that this more chilled-out Lerche record quite suits his music.

The album opens with "Ricochet", which is the polar opposite of "Good Luck", the track that opened Heartbeat Radio and a song that ended memorably with a chaotic burst of swelling strings. Instead, Lerche croons over a stripped-down arrangement, led by quiet guitars. The song picks up a little bit with some percussion toward the end, but essentially the album opens quite softly. The pace picks up immediately after, fortunately, with the album's lead single, "Private Caller". The song is a perfect choice for the single. The guitar part demonstrates yet again Lerche's skill at picking out unusual chord patterns, and the infectious chorus is likely to get stuck in anyone's head for days. Lerche's skill at crafting a ballad is also present on the album's centerpiece, the melancholy, nostalgic "Coliseum Town". It's a lovely, somber ballad that reflects quite abstractly (like most Lerche songs) on being lost in an unfamiliar place. The strings on "Coliseum Town" are unlike the strings on Heartbeat Radio; instead of dominating the song, they provide a lovely, lilting background to its introspective musings.

The "experimental" stuff that Lerche has done on past albums is here too, although much less prominent. Perhaps the most obvious example is the strange accordion solo at the end of "Tied Up to the Tide". The song, for the majority of its five minute length, is a relaxed jazz piece that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Duper Sessions. Then, as it comes to a close, the electric guitar picks up, accompanied by the curiously placed accordion. It's a particularly strange moment; it feels out of place but also somehow appropriate for the songwriter whose MO is to challenge his listeners.

The rest of the album, unfortunately, doesn't live up to Lerche's ordinarily excellent work. While it would be unfair to expect him to pull yet another musical 180, the calm and cool music here doesn't seem like an apt summation of his work. It's ironic, since self-titled albums often serve as statements of a musician's intent. Many of the album's more upbeat tracks, like "Go Right Ahead" and "Nevermind the Typos", aren't that far off stylistically from past Lerche recordings, but they lack the creativity that has so defined his still-young career. While a change of pace, especially immediately following a particularly lively record, is to be expected, this record sounds almost too chilled out for its own good. He's as talented as ever -- that much is for sure. With this record, however, Lerche seems more content to cover safer ground, ground that he has covered effortlessly before. He's proved over six albums that he's adept at writing a tune that's catchy without being superficial. He spends a little too much time here doing that, which is why Sondre Lerche, while not a bad record, plays like a safe one.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.