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Sondre Lerche

Cathartic Cleanses

Jun 27, 2017 Sondre Lerche
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Sondre Lerche‘s vulnerability isn’t a device. It’s an uncontrived, essential component of his psyche, one which he wears on his sleeve and permeates his music. The Norwegian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s warm blooded, meticulously crafted pop songs have assumed protean forms through the years. Initially Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach informed jaunty cuts on 2001’s Faces Down and 2004’s Prefab Sprout via Joni Mitchell swaggering pop classic Two Way Monologue. For the latter Lerche seemed to be primed for stardom, with a songwriting genius that belied his young age of 21. Then everything changed as he began to experiment on the likes of 2006’s Duper Sessions, 2007’s Phantom Punch, and 2009’s Heartbeat Radio. These were largely jazzy, experimental records that caused him to lose a bit of his audience base in the U.S. All had Lerche’s vulnerability in spades, but they were too esoteric for some of his fans.

But on his newest, Pleasure, he captures the naivety and imagination of youth magnificently with a collection of electro-pop songs. Its downcast lyrics belie the ebullient rave-ups ubiquitous on the album. It also ties into his 2014 album Please, which dealt with the effects of his divorce. Pleasure often delves into the collateral damage of that trauma, and even features songs written during the Please sessions that didn’t fit that album’s sound.

“I want people to connect with the element they need,” says Lerche. “If they need to lose themselves in the music and in the more unbridled enthusiastic, groovy catchy stuff, that’s there. If they need understanding and empathy in turbulent times, that’s there. It’s all there in the lyrics. I wanted to make that sort of dissonance clear, to get people to listen to the lyrics and consider them.”

Lerche has also made carefully studied videos for many of Pleasure‘s songs, visually arresting pieces which complement the album’s themes, including “Serenading in the Trenches,” which features the singer having his face shaved by his drummer David Heilman. “I wanted the videos to explicitly comment on the lyrics, because it’s a very turbulent record,” he says. “It’s a very confused record that has this anxiety about it that it’s trying to escape in these moments of pleasure.”

Lerche admits that there are ties in Pleasure to the emotional scars remaining from his divorce, but wants the album to ultimately be a spiritual cleanse, one that also challenges its audience, hoping they’re aware that these moments of happiness can be fleeting, keenly aware of the ache that’s inevitable as a crux of the human condition. “It’s a very self-aware record trying to escape in these moments of pleasure, aware that these aren’t places you can stay and live,” he says. “You need to find a way out if it. But it can be a very fun place to be. It deals with some pretty big things in that sense. I want people to be able to lose themselves in both elements.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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