Unless you knew Miss Cleo before the feds took her down, I seriously doubt you could've predicted Wednesday night's bill at Gypsy Tea Room, or that some of your hippest friends and neighbors will probably be there, nodding along to the sweet guitar-pop sounds of Nada Surf and Sondre Lerche. Remember Nada Surf? Hit it big on MTV in 1996 with the Weezer-meets-Cake single "Popular," made a second album called The Proximity Effect I probably sold before hearing, got screwed by Elektra with very little to show for it? Somehow Let Go, the New York trio's third album (released a couple of months ago on swell Washington indie Barsuk) triumphs over that dodgy history: It's a nifty little set of tunes about small-stakes living (listening to Dylan in the rain, "watching terrible TV," "sitting at the bar hoping you'd walk in the door") that pulls off the rare trick of making sweet guitar-pop hum with fresh feeling. Lerche is even more unlikely: a 20-year-old kid from a small Norwegian town who's turned a short lifetime spent listening to Beatles, Antonio Carlos Jobim and A-ha records into Faces Down, an ebullient debut full of sharp, tuneful songwriting and smart, playful arrangements. "I understand that my age will act as kind of a starting point for people who don't know the music," Lerche told me on the phone from Norway earlier this year, "but obviously I hope that once you get past that you'll still enjoy the record just as much."
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