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Music reviewers across the globe have used many awkward labels to describe Sondre Lerche, including the creepily connotated "manchild", or the trite "old soul", and let's not forget "wunderkind", a term assigned to anyone remotely Germanic and of a certain age age who does anything from tying their own shoes to authoring some of the greatest pop music to grace this planet. Regardless of their cliched nature, some of the aforementioned labels actually ring true.

Few other 21 year olds write and record instant pop classics with such incomparable consistency, let alone in a second language. Few other performers, young or old, have the chutzpah to cover Frank Sinatra songs in concert and the musical chops to actually improve them.

The set is short, too short -- after all, he's just the opener. There are more amusements to come later, and Lerche is humble: if this show is a feast, he's the appetizer, not the main course. But the experience of devouring him does not satisfy us, it only makes us hungrier. He's given us his all, and we still want more. Sondre Lerche is a tasty, tasty addiction. -Devon Powers, www.popmatters.com

Born in September of 1982*, Lerche is yet another artist hailing from the musical hotbed of Bergen, Norway (other Bergen products include chill-out masters Royksopp, and the soft-strumming duo Kings of Convenience). All enlightened Sondre Lerche fans likely know about his childhood worship of 1980s pop outfit A-ha, best known for singer Morten Harket's sharp cheekbones and the classic Take On Me, but very few of them know that his full given name is actually Sondre Lerche Vaular, or that he wrote his first song (entitled Locust Girl) at the age of 14.

Raised on music as varied as Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren, Cole Porter, and of course, A-ha, Lerche began guitar lessons at the tender age of eight years old. "Locust Girl" marked the beginning of Lerche's career as a performer, as he landed his first gig in the Bergen club where his older sister worked soon after writing that song. It was these acoustic sets at a club he wasn't even legally old enough to be in that led to his discovery by Norwegian producer H.P. Gundersen. By the age of 17, Lerche had his own manager, Tatiana Penzo, and a deal with Virgin Records Norway.

Lerche introduced the Norwegian public to his unique brand of effervescent but introspective pop music with a string of EPs released while he was still in high school. All of these songs featured English lyrics, which seemed only right, because it seemed to Sondre that English was the natural language of pop music, as it had been for Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, and of course, A-ha before him. These EPs won him the hearts of Norwegian music fans and a Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannprisen) for Best New Artist.

Sondre's first full-length album, which came to be entitled Faces Down, was recorded in 2000, but its release was delayed to September 2001 so Lerche could complete high school. Faces Down shot to the top of the Norwegian charts, and was critically lauded throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States, where it made Rolling Stone magazine's top 50 albums of 2002.

The release of his debut album prompted Sondre's first tour of United States (along with a few Canadian stops), where he set off to win the hearts of North Americans accompanied only by his Norwegian charm and trusty guitar. It was in these shows where his jazz/lounge roots really brought his music to life and launched his international career.

For all his fey charm, Lerche is a monster when it comes to playing, buckling down to drill at the notes, the ease of his melodic lines unmasked by the devilish intricacies involved in executing them in real time. Pop and simplicity, too often synonyms, are shown to be distant cousins here; catchiness, it seems, does not require facility. Sondre Lerche brews a wickedly elaborate concoction that swallows like the sweetest pill...He tells the crowd he appreciates us and someone calls out, 'no, we appreciate you!' He smiles, says he's glad the feeling is mutual. By george, we've developed a relationship with this guy. Either that, or he's a terrible flirt.

The common thread in all of the songs on Faces Down is one of appealing complexity and impeccably structured classic pop melodies. Although some of the songs on Faces Down are somewhat downtempo, one point that Lerche emphatically makes is that they are never sad. This consistent energy, optimism, and lilting, slightly nasal vocals (and possibly the hint of a resemblence to Haley Joel Osment) form the core of Lerche's irresistable boyish charm.

With his native Norway and select foreign audiences effectively conquered, Sondre set out to prove to the world that he still had plenty more fuel in his prodigial tank with his second full length album Two Way Monologues, released in April 2004.

His sophomore effort saw the chorus-driven power pop structures of Faces Down replaced by a more subtle, unpredictable, and overall more mature sound. "It's all about the song," Lerche has been quoted as saying regarding his second album, "it's not about anything else. If I don't feel strongly about the song I couldn't record it." Fortunately, Sondre's incomparable songwriting abilities and attention to detail ensured that Two Way Monologues retained the irresistability beauty that made Faces Down so palatable.


Faces Down 2001 (Astralwerks)
Sleep On Needles EP 2002 (EMI)
Don't Be Shallow EP 2003 (Astralwerks)
Two Way Monologues 2004 (Astralwerks)

* I have seen his birthday listed as both September 5th and September 13th on various websites, so if anybody knows for sure feel free to /msg me and i'll stick in the real date.

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