But there’s a good chance that his energy is more than just an air: Since his 2002 debut on Astralwerks at the age of 19, Lerche has consistently put out albums full of sophisticated and accessible pop compositions every other year.
With sensibilities that owe as much heritage to French chanson, tin-pan alley, pioneering bubblegum, and 80s pop as they do to indie rock, his ears have stayed focused on melody and song structure even when that made genre seem like a moving target. But with his latest release, genre has finally become irrelevant and Lerche just sings.
Many artists save their self-titled album for a re-approach of their sound, and this one is no exception. 2009’s elaborately glossy Heartbeat Radio turned out to be one of Lerche’s best-received albums since he got his start. But instinctively, he knew that taking an identical approach on Sondre Lerche would be the wrong call.
“I wanted to have some limitations,” Lerche says. “The last record I did was huge, and it took forever. I love that one, but this is its opposite. [Heartbreak Radio] was this really big, immaculate construction. This time, I wanted something a bit rawer — a bit more intimate and stripped down.”
It’s an effect he definitely achieves, and one that might not have been possible without the help of a new producer. He found it in Nicolas Vernhes, an engineer best known for his work with Spoon, Dirty Projectors, Fiery Furnaces, and Deerhunter.
Verhnes has made his name helping avant-garde bands capture gritty and organic sounds, and may seem an unlikely choice for Lerche at first glance. But ultimately, Vernhes sees himself as something of a “musical centerist,” as eager to highlight the Dirty Projectors’ most accessible and viscerally satisfying moments as he is to encourage Lerche in pushing the envelope in his own way…