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Album review: Sondre Lerche's 'Heartbeat Radio'

September 8, 2009 | 11:11 am

Lerche240 "Wait till you hear the refrain," sings Sondre Lerche in the title track of his new album, "Heartbeat Radio." That's not bad advice: No matter what genre he's working in -- fuzzy garage rock, breezy vocal jazz, acoustic folk-pop -- this young Norwegian singer-songwriter crafts catchier choruses than many musicians who've been working twice as long as he has. His refrains always pay off.

But skimming Lerche's songs for their juiciest bits leaves a lot of juice behind. He's a highly meticulous record-maker with a deep and abiding love for intros and verses and bridges; in his mind, each deserves to be lavished with attention.

"Heartbeat Radio" is Lerche's most eclectic outing yet, with no overarching concept beyond a consistent level of excellence. Opener "Good Luck" starts out as a wistful guitar-pop ballad, briefly transforms into a moody art-rock jam and finally climaxes in a frenzy of discordant string jabs. "I Cannot Let You Go" is mellow blue-eyed soul with a scrabbly Steely Dan guitar solo. "If Only" has old-school hip-hop beats. "Pioneer" could charm a Beatle.

The songs here aren't as deep as those on the Beatles' "White Album"; Lerche is such a pleasant sort that you can't really picture him wringing out a "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." But the approach is the same: (1) Good albums are made from good songs; (2) Good songs are made from good parts; (3) Good parts are made from good ideas; (4) Don't cheat.

-- Mikael Wood

Sondre Lerche
"Heartbeat Radio"
Three and a half stars (out of four)