Backed by strong reviews in the US music press, Sondre Lerche hits the road to support his “Two Way Monologue” album.
“Recalling an early David Bowie minus all the affectations, Lerche croons in clear, Anglo-accented English, shifting between the reedy low notes and a swooning falsetto of casual, sensual grace” wrote Rolling Stone Magazine on Lerche’s debut album Faces Down in 2002. Lerche’s second album, “Two Way Monologue” has not been dealt a lesser reception. Strong reviews have boosted Lerche’s campaign which now will be further bolstered by a 14-date US tour.
The head of Lerche's US label Astralwerks, Errol Kolosine, is enthusiastic in a comment to Norwegian daily VG: "He's a huge talent! Mature, dynamic and honest. He sings from the heart, and it strikes a chord with the US audience."'
Kolosine is very optimistic in regards to sales figures for Lerche's second album. "He's go so much potential – if we play our cards correctly it's only a matter of time until Sondre is a huge act. I don't think it's unrealistic to sell 500 000 copies of "Two way monologue".
A long standing dream is to become true for Lerche this summer as he is to perform alongside one of his all-time idols; Milton Nascimento at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival on July 3. Lerche dedicated his latest album to the Brazilian songsmith. “I was elated and very proud to be asked to do this” says an exited Lerche. “Milton Nascimento is an artist that I appreciate tremendously”. Lerche will perform two songs with the respected Brazilian during Nascimento’s concert at the Kongsberg church.
Sondre Lerche is also scheduled to perform for Conan O’Brian on NBC on Tue May 11. For Lerche, this has also been a dream for a long time. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, Lerche said that he loves watching the late night sows after a hard day’s work: “As long as I get to see the monologue. That’s the best” said Lerche. His plans for the night’s appearance are well laid out: “I’ll crack a joke before I force these songs on my audience.”
Here are a few excerpts from current US reviews of “Two Way Monologue”:
Norway's Sondre Lerche possesses a boyish yet accomplished voice that's every bit as expressive as his tunes. He's only twenty-one and looks even younger, but this thinking person's pop star writes ornate, Sunday-morning melodies that suggest a composer twice his age, and his soft, urbane tenor rises to the challenge. Recalling an early David Bowie minus all the affectations, Lerche croons in clear, Anglo-accented English, shifting between reedy low notes and a swooning falsetto of casual, sensual grace.
His second album, Two Way Monologue, showcases those sweet melodies even more effectively than his debut, 2002's Faces Down. Recorded in his hometown of Bergen, Norway, its uncluttered arrangements assimilate decades of chamber pop, folk and even jazz. Strings, horns, woodwinds, various keyboards and guitars swirl around, evoking studio craftsmen from the Beach Boys to Steely Dan to Prefab Sprout. Lamenting as a pedal steel guitar cries through "Stupid Memory," the singer proves he's already become a master of lighthearted melancholy, singing as if smiling through his heart's mishaps. Lerche's well-scripted self-consciousness seems effortless, because he and his backup musicians don't rock: They swing.
All Music Guide
The songs on Two Way Monologue are lyrically mature and sophisticated; the sound of the album is full and arranged perfectly, Lerche effortlessly twists his vocal into falsetto swoops and intimate whispers, and almost every song is worthy of starring on a mix CD made to impress your friends. Songs like the complex "Tore You Down" and "Wet Ground" point to a new level of sophistication both in the songwriting and the performance. "Two Way Monologue" is a perfect distillation of Lerche's style and is probably his best song. Starting as an acoustic ballad that shifts into a rollicking pop tune and then into an Astral Weeks-ish ballad and back, it really is an amazing song. Lyrically it is a touch inscrutable, but that is part of his charm as well. What this record has that his debut didn't are the surprises that pop up at regular intervals and add richness to the arrangements: the honking sax on the wonderful "Two Way Monologue," the Beach Boys vocal harmonies throughout, the bongos on "Days That Are Over," the snaky pedal steel on the achingly beautiful "Stupid Memory." This is a record made by people who have a firm grasp on how to construct an album, from Sean O'Hagan and Marcus Holdaway's tasteful string arrangements to HP Gundersen, Andy Robinson, and Jørgen Træen's arrangements to Lerche's stellar production, there is not a weak moment on the album. In fact, if you hear a pop record with better songs, performances, or arrangements in 2004 than Two Way Monologue, then it will have been a great year for music. The record may get lost in the shuffle and noise of the music biz, but if you manage to find it, cherish it because it is gold record, sales figures be damned.
Sondre Lerche's songs live in a world with Nick Drake's pink moons and the Flaming Lips' pink robots, where maladies have melodies and modern rock is just an ugly rumor. In Lerche's world, Highway to Heaven reruns are, apparently, still a big deal (check the title track's shout-out to "Michael Landon's grace") and the Beach Boys' barbershop ba-ba-bas never went out of style ("Wet Ground" and "Counter Spark" have plenty of pet sounds). It's a land where George is a bigger deal than John and Paul (and Ringo--but that goes without saying) and, occasionally, you have to use your second language to woo your first love. Which means you get weird wordplay ("When tears are pretzels pouring down each time/The sweetness is returning") and perfect poetry ("I take it you are afraid of everything I am and of some things I am not/A fear I share before I go to bed") in the same four minutes ("Track You Down"). But you also get an innocence that is so rare it's not even listed as an endangered species anymore. Evidently, Lerche's world is located somewhere in Norway, but it would like to keep an apartment in your heart. If you'll let it.
Here, for me, Two Way Monologue is the subtle boon which slowly dissolves the mundane. But it will also greet you in your lighter moments, the powerful charge to an already joyful moment. It will be there when things may be dire, in that moment either willing you toward the brighter side, or else sitting still with you, giving you space to contemplate and room to breathe. Sondre Lerche is not only an absurdly talented songwriter and gifted performer, but he is also the most adaptable performer you could ever listen to. Like a friend, he meets you wherever you are, converses with you there, and takes you wherever you may want to go.
The Boston Phoenix
Savoring the artistry of Sondre Lerche is like watching a bird glide along an updraft, flying without ever flapping. Not only does the Norwegian singer-songwriter aim for transcendence, he often achieves it with effortless grace. And he's only 22. Such facility would be maddening if the material on this, his second full-length, weren't so seductive. Despite lyrics that belie Lerche's preoccupation with relationships gone awry, he tosses off lines like "Down came the sky/And all you did was blink" ("Track You Down") with cheery nonchalance rendered in a featherweight voice that slips in and out of falsetto. As in the work of acknowledged influences Paddy McAloon (Prefab Sprout) and Van Dyke Parks, hints of vintage American musical theater shade both his delivery (the plucky turns of phrase in "On the Tower") and the arrangements on these 12 laid-back tunes, which Lerche and his cohort further punctuate with a check list of essential classic pop gestures: multi-tracked vocal harmonies à la the Beach Boys; Burt Bacharach–style brass choruses. Impeccable craftsmanship helps keep Two Way Monologue aloft for 48 minutes, but it's Lerche's gifts as a writer and performer that give the set its wings.