Bands create those certain albums that certainly come across as being fantastic albums, but really only fit a certain mood. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief certainly comes to mind as fitting this description. Many albums serve only as relaxing music, nothing too complicated or anything too musically intricate, such as Eluvium’s Talk Amongst the Trees. Sondre Lerche’s Two Way Monologue is a different kind of mood music. Unlike the previous albums mentioned, Two Way Monologue fits many moods. A happy mood causes Lerche’s Beatle-esque melodies to stand out, while a state of depression causes Lerche’s sad, reflective love stories to feed off the sad emotions.
Sondre Lerche is a singer/songwriter from Norway. He started playing guitar and singing at a very young age, penning his first song and playing acoustic gigs at age 14. At age 21, he released his second effort, Two Way Monologue. Even with his debut album, Sondre found immediate critical acclaim and a steadily growing fan base. Rolling Stone named his Faces Down album one of the top 50 albums of 2002. Two Way Monologue shows an equal influence from The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Sufjan Stevens. While primarily a typical guitar wielding singer-songwriter, Two Way Monologue throws in all sorts of different instruments including string sections, synthesizers, and piano, obviously influenced by the grandiose arranging of Sufjan Stevens. With all the different instrumentation, excellent harmonies and sweeping atmosphere draw an obvious influence and similarity to some of the greatest pop artists of all time. The backup vocals of Wet Ground
sound straight out of The Beach Boys while the musical background sounds more Beatle-esque, certainly the California pop rock of the Beach Boys. However, other songs such as Stupid Memory
throw out obvious folk references, featuring a banjo. Even further down the genre path, It’s Too Late
features some incredibly jazzy guitar later to be explored on his jazz album the Duper Sessions.
Of course, as with most singer-songwriters, Sondre really is the focus of the album, using all the other instruments simply as ambiance and atmosphere. His singing voice is superb for what the genre calls for, which really isn’t much. His soothing falsetto highlights his tenor voice. Although having an obvious native language of Norwegian, Sondre sings with no noticeable accent. He shows a few flaws in the language, composing a few awkward lines here and there, but he certainly shows a great proficiency of the English language. Whether intended or not, his sentence structure of some lines create an originality and catchiness about him. Despite his unique (whether that be good or bad) lines, his main messages come across quite easily. Most of his lyrics refer to a fallen relationship and the aftermath, such as trying to forget memories in Stupid Memory
as well as finding an optimistic view and dreaming of getting back together in the ironically titled It’s Over
. Maybe it’s his relaxing tone quality, but the entire album seems to draw an overall message of “oh well, life goes on.” Sondre sighs out the closing line of the entire album, “Maybe you’re gone,” and sends off the exact message of “oh well.” On Maybe You’re Gone
, a lush wind section takes the album out, drawing from the sound of a beautiful brass quintet to the sound of French accordion.
With all this, Two Way Monologue is certainly an easy listen all the way through. Sondre’s voice never tires, especially with that relaxing tone quality he possesses. The variety on the album certainly aims to please as well, ranging from folk to indie pop to laid back jazzy lounge rock. Sondre writes in each style with originality and flair, never showing a weakness in anything, probably from his years upon years of guitar instruction and exposure to many different styles. With so many different sounds, the possibilites for this young man are immense, as he recently traveled down the jazz path and formed the Faces Down quartet to accompany him on his travels. The turn of 2007 sees the release of Phantom Punch, a much more rock-oriented album which draws a lot of hype from his constantly increasing fan base. Two Way Monologue is certainly worth picking up for fans of laid-back, fun, and poppy music. Norway continues to amaze with its music scene, putting out Sondre Lerche as one of its star acts.
Track You Down
Two Way Monologue
Maybe You’re Gone