Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche

written by: June 14, 2011
Release Date: June 7, 2011


When your job title is that of singer-songwriter, you’re charged with doing two things really well.

This self-titled album is no. 7 for Sondre Lerche, and the Norwegian artist still doesn’t excel at poignant vocals or affecting compositions. Sheer creamed corn blandness, however, isn’t the reason for the John Malkovich amount of hair in the rating. While mediocre songwriters flood countless suburban coffeehouses, making no impression and gently letting patrons go on living their lives, there are hints of a more accomplished writer on Sondre Lerche, accenting what is largely a set of irritating songs with all the finesse of a conceited high school theatre kid.

The stately piano break and orchestral sunrise in “Ricochet,” the double-time shuffle in “Go Right Ahead,” and the major chord that resolves a wandering verse in “Living Dangerously” are all example of the toned writer lurking within Lerche’s skinny frame. “Living Dangerously” in particular recalls the middle finger-shaped void Fiona Apple has twice left in HBO-friendly alt-pop. It’s here where the melodic twists and turns make for an exciting trip instead of a confusing one (even if that harmonica is a little too close to the graying yuppie pseudo-cool of mid-’90s Sting).

Such songs are the exception, not the rule, on Sondre Lerche. It’s amazing how he manages to say exactly nothing over the course of his self-titled album’s 40 minutes.

Lyrics like “Somewhere in a house across the sea/Maybe in a distant memory” are pretty much par for the course. The prettiest part of that one—the god awful “Ricochet”—is the end, and that’s not even a pithy joke; he settles down for a stately final piano chord which, while simple, will never go out of style.

While it boasts a stronger hit-single chorus than most of Sondre Lerche’s 10 middling songs, its successor “Private Caller” sounds like it should be making jaded waiters plug their ears and beg for Maroon 5 at an upscale chain restaurant. And then there are the songs so lightweight they’ll make you airsick, as in “Red Flags.”

Lerche’s voice suggests a more sallow Jeff Mangum without the homespun intensity. Most irritating is when he (intentionally?) sings out of tune, which compounds the meandering nature of the songs that only seem to lock in on the most annoying choruses.

You can’t fault Lerche for not trying. It’s his seventh album, and while he fills it with clichés like “what a great mess we’re in,” he and his producers take great care to accentuate his attempted cleverness elsewhere. On the hyper-literate cabaret of “Never Mind The Typos,” his voice gets further away when he sings “Now if you’ll excuse me/I’ve gone deaf in one ear.” There is a late album comeback saving Sondre Lerche from Sondre Lerche, with the blue-eyed blues carnival of “Tied Up to the Tide” evoking an early John Lennon outtake, ending in a blaring chord and shrieking feedback.

That finale of “Tied Up” and closing track “When the River” solidifies the feeling that better work lies ahead; as it stands, Lerche gave his name to an album that represents potential in bursts. His challenge in “Go Right Ahead”—”Anybody want to try now/You go right ahead now/I don’t wanna waste your time”—sounds like the age old challenge against negative music criticism (“why don’t you write something better, then!”). The response is simple: that’s his job as a singer-songwriter, and after a decade of making music, it sounds like he’s up for review. He should be the one dishing it out.

Sondre Lerche – s/t Tracklist:

  1. “Ricochet”
  2. “Private Caller”
  3. “Red Flags”
  4. “Go Right Ahead”
  5. “Coliseum Town”
  6. “Nevermind The Typos”
  7. “Domino”
  8. “Living Dangerously”
  9. “Tied Up To The Tide”
  10. “When The River”