Late last summer I happened to play Lerche’s new record by chance, thought little when it was finished other than it was generally pleasant, and revisited when like a nagging itch I had to hear the chorus of ‘Red Flags’ at least a dozen times. Only aged thirty, Lerche has six studio albums, a soundtrack (Dan In Real Life), a live album, and a slew of EPs to his name. All rather impressive, yet he remains virtually unknown in the States probably because he’s not an outlandish asshole. Don’t believe underwhelming Pitchfork reviews—those unable to appreciate Lerche’s rhythm must think he should stick to his mother tongue, if only because chances are he’s too articulate for their liking.
SONDRE LERCHE – Bootlegs (Mona): Lerche’s first live album starts where his eponymous sixth ends; with “When the River,” a flow from polished studio soundboard to the raw, uneven road where his fracturing falsetto and minimal back-up band amp up the energy and manage to put two songs over six minutes; no small feat for an artist who’s—even on his ‘jazz’ album—thoroughly non-improvisatory. True to its name, Bootlegs was recorded unbeknownst to the Norwegian in his native Bergen and newfound home Brooklyn, tapes handed to him after the fact mistakes and all. And the mistakes aren’t botched vocals or spurts of going off-rhythm—that’s the beauty of being live—but the jams: Lerche’s a singer, not an axman, so he’s worse off turning “Two Way Monologue” into a one-way street and does better with concise, energetic renditions of his best studio work. A MINUS
SONDRE LERCHE – Sondre Lerche (Mona ‘11): The second Burt Bacharach; everybody says so. Only I hear a sobered Nilsson every bit as witty (“I think I know all things / For example / I know I know nothing”) with a dash of solo Paul Simon and Van Morrison jazziness. This is solid classic pop deemed by cultural arbiters too predictable and commonplace in comparison to his earlier work to hold any value. After all, even his anchoring orchestral swells are subtle in their inability to be catapulting. But what’s different is Lerche’s refusal to be different—having no agenda to chase (like his lounge-like Duper Sessions, movie soundtrack, or overproduced pop) he relegates surprises to favor craftsmanship: tied up with the tide, he interrogates his love for prancing on the roof at night, talks too straightforwardly to be the nice guy, and finally delivers an album worthy of his name rather than his boyish face. Which must account for the puzzling cover photo. A