The last few years have been hectic for Bergen’s maestro of orchestrated, witty and charming pop perfection, Sondre Lerche. As a result of frequent trans-Atlantic commuting, the 22 year-old has steadily built up a loyal following in the US and now he’s back to please his devoted audience. This autumn, Lerche will play no less than 37 gigs on the other side of the Atlantic, both as support for French electronica-masters Air and as a headliner.
Lerche’s latest album “Two Way Monologue” has landed him a string of solid reviews and healthy sales (in excess of 75000 units). The album was recently released in the UK and the first live and album reviews have now begun to tick in.
At a recent gig at London’s Barfly in Camden, The Guardian’s David Peschek reported that Lerche had a firm grip of the audience with his pop perfection:
“In the inauspicious surroundings of archetypal Camden indie venue the Barfly, Sondre Lerche – Norwegian, 21, improbably chiselled and floppy of fringe – is playing songs from remarkably, his second album, He was signed at 17. Stripped of the deft, lush arrangements that place the record somewhere between Love and Prefab Sprout (of whom he’s a big fan) Lerche with only an electric guitar performs his delicate songs with such panache that after a while you think that’s what missing is not simply a band but a palm court octet.
He’s an extraordinarily gifted singer, sophisticated but unshowy. When his voice lifts naturally into silver peals of falsetto, it’s to highlight a melody with perfectly chosen grace notes, not another version of the gruellingly sincere cracked-choirboy pose of the post-Coldplay brigade, In Days That Are Over he swings into a passage of gentle scat singing that’s exquisite, We might almost be watching Roddy Frame (whose first, brilliant records were also released while he was still a teenager in the early 1980s) singing Cole Porter. Ben Watt’s solo album, North Marine Drive, also comes to mind, beacons from a brief time when a handful of musicians seemed to aspire to the elegance of café society, before the wine bar tedium that characterise so much self-consciously “adult” music became the norm as the decade progressed.
“You’re very sexy” calls out a man in the audience. “Take your shirt off!” yells another. A couple of more animated songs give Lerche the chance to throw his hair around a bit, but he knows when to stop. Briefly, unrealistically, you wonder what Simon Cowell might make of talent like this if it were to appear among his teen wannabes. Lerche is a gorgeously that elegance can and should be an integral part of pop music.”
Earlier this year, Lerche’s “Two Way Monologue” was released to wide critical acclaim domestically as well as internationally. While “Two Way Monologue” was released this spring in the US, it wasn’t released in the UK until August 16. The first reviews have now begun to tick in, below is a very positive one from Uncut:
“Norwegian prodigy’s vivid second album
You realise 21-year-old singer-songwriter Lerche is a bit different when he opens his second album with a French horn instrumental. It’s an act of extreme confidence but hardly misplaced, for the dozen songs that follow boast tunes that wrap themselves around you like a favourite jumper. Steeped in influences from Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks to Jeff Buckley, Lerche can do melancholic troubadour (“It’s too late”) shiny pop perfection (“On The Tower”), woozy psychedelia (“Days Tat Are Over”) and symphonic ballads (“It’s Over”), all sung in the beguilingly lazy voice of an overgrown choirboy. Think swoonsome pop at its most non-cynical but with a left-field twist. Like Rufus Wainwright or Ed Harcourt, perhaps. A real find.”
The US press awarded “Two Way Monologue” a string of rave reviews upon its release, below is an excerpt of the Rolling Stone review:
”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.”
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