Friday, February 17, 2017

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Violent Game"

It's a story as old as time: you go to see one of your favorite bands/artists on tour supporting their latest album and they unveil a new song. It's good. So good. But you know you'll have to wait until it's officially released. So you wait. And see them each time they blow into town hoping they'll play it to tide you over. That's essentially what happened with Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche's latest single "Violent Game", the exception of course being that he unveiled "Violent Game" during his first and only CMJ set in 2013, recorded and released Please the following September in 2014, and released the one-off Despite The Night EP the following year. It appeared on neither release. It felt like Lerche was torturing me but the real reason "Violent Game" never made it on a release despite being a fully completed song was firstly that it didn't fit with what Lerche was trying to do with Please and also because a studio version of the song that he liked eluded him. So what happened differently that "Violent Game" ended up on his forthcoming record Pleasure? He recorded the song live in studio with his trusted live band.

"Violent Game" is so markedly different from the first two singles "I'm Always Watching You" and "Soft Feelings" that it's almost immediately obvious why he's withheld it until now. "I'm Always Watching You" pines, "Soft Feelings" looks forward, both push his sound in bold new directions by looking to the past. "Violent Game", like it's name suggests, is Lerche's rallying song. It's quintessential Lerche with it's bossa nova recalling chord structure and emollient charm. But much like his live album Bootlegs, it reveals a fiercer, scrappier Lerche than his more polished studio counterpart this side of Phantom Punch. And while Lerche's lyricism has been trending towards blending the lines between Lerche's id impulses and his Nordic charm, capturing "Violent Game" live does a better job of capturing the intensity. The depiction of moving on in "Soft Feelings" was largely introspective and pleasant, "Violent Game" has no such intentions. "Done tearing out my hair, I wanna tear you up/Done running from the sun, I wanna run you down." Lerche croons before the band surges forward to accompany his winning directness. Much like "Soft Feeling" there's a toss and turn but where Lerche veered between hopefulness and guilt, "Violent Game" is rooted in the visceral. Lerche has the upperhad here unlike the pleading "Soft Feelings". The shifts play with that dynamic; Lerche's dominant and the lines blur between anger and lusty with a dose of the fantastic and the surreal. As Please demonstrated even at his lowest Lerche is a lover not a fighter and "Violent Game" seeks romance even if it's a fevered, flawed one.

It's a set piece for both Lerche and band as they go absolutely balls to the wall and Lerche does more with his guitar in 7 minutes than some bands do on an album and it's hard to imagine how you can possibly follow up such a firestarter but "Violent Game" is only the penultimate song on the album. There's more to follow. And Lerche wrote pretty much an album's worth of material after it. I'm certainly glad Lerche eventually found a home for it as it's one of his most enjoyable songs and one that ostensibly bridges the gap between Lerche's self-titled, Please and Pleasure.

Sondre Lerche's eight studio album Pleasure is now out March 3rd. He's currently on tour so you can find out when he's coming your way as well as pre-order the record here.

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