SXSW 06: “Thank You for the Days”

The Cribs
The Cribs

First, an introduction, and a confession: “Hi, I’m John, and I’m a Southby-aholic.”

This year marked my eighth consecutive pilgrimage to Austin, TX, for the annual South by Southwest music festival (as above, referred to by frequent attendees as Southby). Known, variously, among friends and musicians, as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Spring Break,” “Indie-Rock Mardi Gras,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Olympics,” I think I may prefer the sobriquet that occurred to me this year mid-fest: Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas. Continue reading →

Sondre Lerche: “Duper Sessions”

Sondre LercheCD Review >>


Sondre Lerche & The Faces Down Quartet
Duper Sessions
[Astralworks, 2006]
Rating: 7.5


No better way to mark the beginning of Spring than the stateside release of Sondre Lerche’s new album “Duper Sessions,” featuring the Faces Down Quartet. The man has already generated at least two albums’ worth of sunny, romantic, elegant pop that simply brim with class and sophistication well beyond his twenty-three years. In fact, the level of sophistication that Lerche reaches on “Duper Sessions” nearly immortalizes him as one of pop music’s great anomalies.

He was only 18 when he recorded most of what would become his stellar debut album “Faces Down.” Following its stateside release in the fall of 2002, legions of critics, who had little else to pick the young Norwegian apart for, repeatedly cited the inevitable obstacles he faced writing lyrics in his second language, yet still lavished him with well-deserved comparisons to Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. I found it impossible to hold the language barrier against him. He still wrote better songs than a majority of Americans who got any attention from the mainstream press that year, which is sad in a way. Few artists anywhere near the realm of popular music have drawn such heady comparisons to artists two to three times their age in this context. Was Lerche trying so hard to emulate those soul-infected, bossa nova stylings and appear well beyond his years, or simply aiming to separate himself from a slew of other “sensitive” Euro-indie acts? Truthfully, for myself and many others who had the good fortune to discover the man early on, the songs on “Faces Down” and its follow-up “Two-Way Monologue” were too damn irresistible to worry about his intentions.

Continue reading →