Sondre Lerche; here, in arms

Had he come of age in the '70s during the golden age of the singer/songwriter, Sondre Lerche (pronounced "Sonder Lerkay") would likely be an international star rather than a Norwegian phenom/cult favorite. Lerche took to music early and recorded his acclaimed debut Faces Down at 18. It displayed versatility and pop sophistication well beyond his years, exploring Beatles-esque melodies, swelling Brill Building elegance, the sentimental soft rock of Harry Nilsson and even Brazilian bossa nova. His willowy tenor possesses the fey air of a cool autumn breeze, at times suggesting a less theatrical Rufus Wainwright. Indeed, Lerche's unassuming manner and sly lyrical wit tend to imbue his songs with unpretentious everyman charm. His debut made him a star in Norway and found critical support in America, though somewhat diminished by Lerche's wide-ranging tastes; subsequent albums explored jazz, (inspired by a tour supporting Elvis Costello) punchy new wave rock and movie soundtracks (Steve Carell-vehicle Dan in Real Life). However, Lerche brought it all into focus with 2009's Heartbeat Radio. Easily his finest release, it consolidates his varied interests in a lyrically sharp, well-wrought effort. His new self-titled album follows that same thread showcasing his skill as one of the most gifted pop craftsmen since Elliott Smith.

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