Wondering what Beck's gonna sound like with Oklahoma psych-pop nuts the Flaming Lips as his backing band? This 20-year-old Norwegian kid's already figured it out: On Faces Down, his very nifty debut album, Sondre Lerche juices the serpentine space-folk of Mutations and Sea Change with the candy-colored instrumental flourishes the Lips have gotten so good at on their last several records. Sounds easy, especially considering the string-sampling possibilities available to any mildly computer-literate young person (ever heard anything by Her Space Holiday?), but Lerche transcends simple pastiche by writing real songs and then making their arrangements sound inevitable--he sings the gently fatalistic lead single "You Know So Well" like Eleanor Rigby after a long, hard look at all the lonely people, so the buoyant string section supplies a dramatic counterpoint not present in stuff by impeccably retro-minded popsters like the High Llamas (whose Sean O'Hagan actually wrote the charts). Lerche's wobbly English makes his lyrics scan as more sophisticated than they are, too: "And my transparent mind won't cover see-through hearts," he admits with a timorous sigh. Mellow Scandinavian gold, Faces Down is a soft-rock bulletin custom-made for autumn listening.
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