Sondre Lerche Two Way Monologue

[Astralwerks; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: pop, folk pop
Others: The Shins, The Stills, Death Cab for Cutie

Sondre Lerche's ear pleasing, easy listening 2002 album Faces Down became an exceptional pop phenomenon in Norway and across many other borders. Recorded at the tender young age of 16, Lerche penned a magnificent pop record with a plethora of borrowed sounds and structures from several influential artists in yesterday and today's music. His slower, hypnotic ballads were reminiscent of early Burt Bacharach, while his vocal delivery mimicked a young and obsessive David Bowie prior to the Ziggy transformation. Many referred to Faces Down as Lerche's own rendition of the Bowie classic Hunky Dory. Yet what remained true about his debut record is that it contained some of the most beautiful and passionate pop music to be heard. Now two years later, Sondre Lerche has attempted to elude the continuous comparisons to other performers with the release of his newest record, titled Two Way Monologue.

What is immediately evident with Lerche's follow-up release is his flourished maturity. Now at the age of 21, Lerche has attempted to unravel and reinvent himself as a pop sensation, with a more rugged and craggy style. Two Way Monologue's title song may be the primary example of his rebirth into his own new personal identity. The song is jagged in execution and harbors a sense of pained anguish. Accompanied with a heavy guitar supplement, New Pornographers' rhythmic tempo, and fervent drum thumps, "Two Way Monologue" is the centerpiece and the most polished song on the entire record. It clearly identifies Lerche's growth and personal challenge to make a positive progression towards self-identity in the music world of today.

Although many other songs are familiar territory and resemble anything found on Faces Down, songs like "Days That Are Over" showcase new and appealing musical elements, like the additions of subtle piano, organ, violin, and trumpet. Furthermore, "Wet Ground" displays Lerche's rougher and more uneven vocals that actually compliment the song. But sadly, the new and improved Lerche diminishes and reverts to many elements that are all too familiar from his previous album.

Two Way Monologue is an evident progression forward, but not forward enough. It is extremely similar to Faces Down and ultimately leads to disappointment. It is not a bad record, but it just lacks any element of surprise. There are a few moments of glimmering success, but unfortunately, a carbon copy of his debut is not enough to sustain the glimmer. And to boldly state, if Faces Down was the equivalent to Bowie's Hunky Dory, Two Way Monologue is definitely not the success and transition needed to become Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.

1. Love You
2. Track You Down
3. On The Tower
4. Two Way Monologue
5. Days That Are Over
6. Wet Ground
7. Counter Spark
8. It's Over
9. Stupid Memory
10. It's Too Late
11. It's Our Job
12. Maybe You're Gone

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