Sondre Lerche | Faces Down | Astralwerks

Who knew that Norwegian geneticists were so good? I ask this because it is obvious that 19-year-old Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche was grown in a lab from stolen scraps of David Bowie’s vocal chords, Badly Drawn Boy’s brain and Wayne Newton’s taste buds. The rare teenaged musicians who try to write their own songs sound like – surprise! – teenagers. Lerche, in his debut album Faces Down, sounds like someone else. As a teenager.

In fact, track 2, titled “You Know So Well,” sounds like a discarded early version of Badly Drawn Boy’s song “Epitaph” to such an eerie extent that his lawyers are probably stalking Lerche at this very moment. If so, they ought to listen to the drums on track 11 and many of the sound effects used throughout the album.

The only cut worth a second listen is “Side Two” (track 5), a mellow acoustic track that does very well by copying Beck’s brilliant Sea Change and every other acoustic-guitar-and-moody-vocals-only song out there. Lerche’s voice reaches a weary gentleness, and the song seems to be very important to him – he borrowed Pearl Jam’s trick of leaving the lyrics to really personal tracks out of the liner notes.

After that is an arid stretch of really, really bad songs that is as hard to get through as the Sahara in July. “Modern Nature,” jammed in at the midpoint of the album like a fat sweaty guy in a crowded theater, has the worst male/female duet since Daryl Hall and John Oates flamboyantly lit up the stage in pastels and hair gel.

Right after that gem comes “Virtue and Wine,” which lacks the benefits of either. What it has in abundance is those damn French horns that one always hears at the supermarket. Air uses them, but, being French, they fail less vehemently than most bands. I have personally heard those horns often enough at Albertsons that Lerche’s song made me salivate like Pavlov’s pooch. Then the nausea set in, although in fairness, it could have been the next track, “On and Off Again,” which forced the question, “Why could it not just be ‘Off’?”

I admit that I have a fondness for Scandinavian music – the only other review I have written was for Iceland’s Sigur R