album review

Review: Sondre Lerche’s “Please”


There’s a lot of whimsy tucked away in the fjords and mountains of Norway. Much of that, thankfully, has been instilled in the musicians that hail from that nordic kingdom. In 2001, a sweet-faced Sondre Lerche was given as a gift to the world. A talented folk singer and guitarist that was so precious it was impossible not to coo over him. His career has evolved from charming darling to jazz singer to 80s pop-obsessor.

With his seventh full-length album Please, Lerche takes a yet another step in a rather unexpected direction.

To understand the sound of the album, it’s best to understand the place Lerche was coming from. Fans will have known that the songwriter and his wife, Mona Fastvold, filed for divorce in 2013 after the completion of his work for the soundtrack for her first film. A turn of events like that would make many believe that Please would be a somber album of ballads and heart-ache. Instead, Lerche has delivered his most pop-centric “dance” album yet. In a way he has a divorce to thank for helping him produce one of his better albums in a while.

The sound on Please often seems to fall victim to what can be referred to as “indie-music-cliches” – that would be the group chants and heavy on dead guitar lines. See through that and the melodies that Lerche is so famous for creep in. It’s a little bit too experimental in places and that begins to sound almost too noisy – like trying to read someone’s unclear thoughts.

Lerche’s lyrics are better than ever. Even if they are a bit muddled by noise and feedback. After the album settles down from the opening number and first single “Bad Law,” it is a bit easier to sort through. Tracks like “Crickets” and “After the Exorcism” keep the album moving at an interesting pace, interesting here meaning exactly as it should: complex and unusual. The Norwegian has proved yet again that he is a cut above when it comes to making a great pop song.

While Please probably isn’t the best in a long line of great albums, it does deliver plenty of things to smile about. This isn’t an album that will please everyone because many times change is difficult to accept. But what is easy to accept is an artist that wants to deal openly with their emotions and that is as refreshing as ever.

Luminous casts light on a once-dark Horrors


It almost seems impossible that who were once a quintet of spidery-legged mop heads have emerged as indie music forerunners. Their ghoulish music from their self-titled debut almost has to be from an entirely different band. They were a bit of a laugh, like a harmless caricature or cartoon. Somehow in the span of less than a decade with their fourth album, Luminous, London band the Horrors have moulded their own way as fine musicians – a direction mimicked by others, and hardly ever to the same effect.

Luminous is as, well, luminous as it suggests. The bright sound is hypnotic and welcoming, an entirely different direction of the screeches and shadows of their 2007 debut, Strange House. The hair has lost volume and their clothes now seem to be the right size. The Horrors have grown up and patted that last bit of soil on the grave that holds the memory of what they were.

The fact that the band have had a consistent line-up since their debut is astounding when taking into consideration how much they have sharply turned directions with their sound. Luminous is at times even sublime and heavy. Although, it did feel like the album that would never arrive. The band scrapped their initial try, giving up the September 2013 release date.

Their biggest critics will say that they have always wore their influences so openly, but it is difficult to fault them when their choices are so good. The sound is unique their own (although for the ease of things, we’ll call it neo-psychedelic for genre’s sake). They’ve covered the music part so well, it seems only a matter of time before the band will come along as well lyrically.

These sharp turns in direction seem to be what fans now look forward to most. The Horrors are hardly boring, but Luminous seems to be in the same realm of 2011’s Skying. This just may be the sound that they really will hone into become distinctly theirs.

The opening of ‘Jealous Sun’ has whining guitars that are bending enough to make My Bloody Valentine want to re-think their last album, but ‘I See You’ is clearly the jewel of the entire venture. The dizzying textures of synth are reminiscent of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. Both songs have use the hypnotic technique of layering and repeating the vocals. Badwan’s voice, it must be noted, have vastly improved over the course of these four albums. His baritone has developed into a range of soft to grandiose.

It is that danceability that proves the Horrors are still ahead of the pack. They remain unique in their tastes while approaching a more general public pleasing sound.

Luminous, while it shines bright in parts, feels more of the same. Not the finest moment in the band’s flourishing career, but it feels like the perfect stepping-stone in the right direction. The future still feels full of promise.