Monday, September 8, 2014

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Sentimentalist"

                                                 (photo by Eric Ray Davidson)

After the groovy dancefloor filler that was "Bad Law", Norwegian export Sondre Lerche's offering up a much moodier number far more befitting of the breakup album that seventh studio album Please is rumored to be. While the lyrics of "Bad Law" were no doubt rather dark, there's no denying the rather upbeat presentation obscured them a bit - not quite a celebration, but not quite an admonishment either. While it remains to be seen exactly what kind of album Please will end up at the end, "Sentimentalist" sees Lerche optioning a different shade. There's no doubt that Lerche's best songs are the unflinchingly honest, heartfelt gems in his catalog and "Sentimentalist" has all the makings of those without exactly drawing from the same well.

Lerche's most recent dips into experimentalism for The Sleepwalker soundtrack have clearly stuck as his vocals are submerged into a cold bath of reverb. Lerche's trademark melodic clarity is set directly at odds with an ominous, lurking haze that threatens and eventually does consume everything. One of Lerche's greatest strengths has been an ability to spotlight the fallout of negative emotive turns without a sense of wallowing and "Sentimentalist" is crystal clear example of that. It's a song tinged with the specter of regret but never quite giving in to it - at least not lyrically. Instead of riotous pyrotechnics of a relationship at its end, Lerche instead paints a picture of a gradual fade - almost completely at odds with the passionate fervor addressed in "Bad Law". "I'll be damned if I fight, I'll be damned if I don't" opines Lerche before offering a very telling "In the end, would it count?" 

"Sentimentalist" strips Lerche of all his trademark charm to his great benefit. There's no rights or wrongs presented, no appeals for the listener to take a side, instead Lerche presents his own measured evaluation that makes it clear he's removed from the emotional fallout. It's almost jarringly in its neutrality, but commendable that Lerche avoids the viable but cheaper option of playing victim or villain. If Please ends up being a break up album, songs like "Sentimentalist" will be its saving grace - rising above the standard tropes to offer a smart but still enjoyable and still relatable take. 

Sondre Lerche's seventh full length studio album Please is out September 23rd on Lerche's own Mona Records. Preorder for digital as well as CD/LP are available now.

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