I don’t know the first time I heard Sondre Lerche. I do remember having the pre-conceived notion that he was a Norwegian guitarist inspired by bossa nova music. That was an oversimplification then and nowhere near describes what Lerche has been producing these past couple years. While I was always attracted to the unexpected jazz chords and progressions, the somber lyrics, and top-notch production, he outdid himself with 2014’s Please, an album that found Lerche experimenting more with synthesizers and with a certain rawness and unpredictability from his previous work.
While there were still elements of Baroque Pop on Please, Lerche’s latest album Pleasure expands into upbeat New Wave (opening track “Soft Feelings” and it’s obvious New Order influence) and dancey parts that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear at a DJ set at the Mid. Vocal and drum effects, appregiated synths, and angular song structures mark new territory for Lerche. While the album feels loose in parts, there is an overall theme. From a recent interview:
It’s sort of a liminal-themed record. I feel like all the songs, one way or another, relate to being in limbo or being between two realities or two personalities. It’s definitely some sort of aftermath after some sort dramatic events where you don’t quite know what’s what and you seek to only live in the moment because you can’t stomach to look too far ahead or look back. It’s pretty desperate, joyful, confused and explosive type of record where you seek to only be in the moment.
He has used the term “Limbo” in multiple interviews I’ve read and it sounds like he’s used this freedom from structure to give in to impulse in a way he never has before. For example, watch the video for “Serenading in the Trenches” which premiered on Out’s website. The video flirts with gender roles and barriers (and especially how many male artists navigate these roles and barriers) never making a brash statement, but just exploring.
A lot of interviews and reviews question how much fans of his older work, whether indie-pop or lounge jazz, will accept this new sound. Personally I think it’s great to see an artist evolve like this. While Two-Way Monologue is still the benchmark, I’m excited for the potential of all that is to come with Lerche performing these new songs. Likewise, if you found Lerche a bit too precious in the past, it’s most definitely a time to re-listen.
I’ve seen Sondre Lerche at Lincoln Hall twice before, the perfect venue setting for an artist who’s every note demands your attention. I can’t imagine what he will do with the space with these more startling, ambiguous, and ambitious songs.
Sondre Lerche plays Lincoln Hall Saturday April 22nd. 21+ / 9 PM / $20. Dedekind Cut opens. Tickets available here.