Two Way Monologue
The Music Box's #4 album of 2004
T.J. Simon's #10 album for 2004
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2004, Volume 11, #6
Written by John Metzger
Need proof that Sondre Lercheís Faces Down wasnít a fluke? Then give a listen to his latest project Two Way Monologue ó an album that drips with just the right mixture of shimmering pop refrains and intelligently crafted, if sometimes puzzlingly strange, lyrics. Although a few clumsy turns of phrase remain, Lerche significantly has improved upon the occasionally awkward moments of his debut ó a notion that isnít all that surprising when one considers that his initial batch of tunes was written when he was a wee lad of 16. Despite the fact that he hasnít altered his approach dramatically from one outing to the next, the manner in which the new collection comes together is undoubtedly a giant leap forward for the Norwegian songwriter.
In short, Lerche has lost none of his ambition, but where he had a tendency to stumble through the symphonic textures and juxtapositions of ideas on Faces Down, heís refined Two Way Monologue into something that is at once sophisticated, elegant, eloquent, and complex. Even better, he made this transition without sacrificing any of his infectiously intoxicating melodies, which contain an air of childlike playfulness even as his lyrics speak to a loss of innocence in this unsettling 9/11 afterlife. Indeed, scattered throughout the release are many examples of his burgeoning growth and maturity, not the least of which is the remarkable title track. Here, he addresses communication problems between generations as the music blossoms from a sullen, Nick Drake-infused folk tune into a radiantly psychedelic pop extravaganza in a way that personifies the transformation that Belle & Sebastian has undergone over the course of its many albums. Elsewhere, Lerche underscores Stupid Memory, a delightfully McCartney-esque gem, with the weepy wisps of pedal steel guitar that in essence merge The White Album with The Byrdsí Sweetheart of the Rodeo while Wet Ground finds the common terrain among Rufus Wainwright, The Beach Boys, and Wilco; Days That Are Over drapes a fusion of Donovan, Al Stewart, and Hunky Dory-era David Bowie with a Bacharachian chamber pop arrangement; the hazy lilt of Maybe Youíre Gone recalls Ray Daviesí work with The Kinks; and with lyrics that recall lost loves, crashing airplanes, and falling skies, thereís little doubt where Lercheís head is at these days. Like most people, heís wondering just what promise the future holds. Truth be told, there is nary a dud to be found within the dozen tracks on Two Way Monologue, but perhaps the best part about the album is the knowledge that Sondre Lercheís career is just now getting underway. For him, at least, the future looks bright.
Two Way Monologue is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box