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COMING OF AGE “When I started out writing songs when I was a teenager, it wasn’t easy,” says Sondra Lerche. “I would sit and write and write.” 

A day in the life of one of Sondre Lerche's songs must be interesting. Anyone who has spent any time with one of his albums knows that it's not going to be your typical grab-a-coffee, "how's-the-missus?" sort of day. Lerche's songs get on the wrong bus, get turned into nests by pigeons, and get scribbled on by nursery-school students. And that's just before lunch.

"I sometimes wish that I wrote simpler songs," says the Norwegian singer-songwriter from his home in Brooklyn, where he pads his idyllic artist's afternoon with his fashion-model wife by working on a track-by-track essay about his new album, Sondre Lerche (Mona). "Simpler songs. Whatever that means. Using less chords or elements to get to the structure or emotional outburst that I'm looking for. I try to set out to do that. But this album is coming to terms, in a way, with the fact that my songs have a way of sounding like my songs."

The puckish piper of sophisti-pop has gone "self-titled" on his sixth proper album — not so much because his deadline was looming and he ran out of time, but because he has come to the realization at 28 years old, that no matter what he does, he is inescapably going to sound like himself. For someone like Lerche, who slaloms so easily among the moguls of indie, world-pop, jazz, and operatic pre-rock, the realization about these "emotional outbursts" is that they are inevitably . . . complicated. "Sometimes I wonder how to do it but I don't know if I know how," says Lerche, reflecting on his preference for complicated, oh-so-lovely structures. "For me it is very natural, but I realize that what is natural for me is different for everyone."

There's no need for Lerche to apologize for kicking ass at music. By his second album (2004's Two Way Monologue) the then 22-year-old had had already established himself as a songwriting heavyweight with deft lyrics and great production taste. And he hasn't stopped growing. Lerche still has the earworms that he's known for, but the earworms are stretched out, less doting on obvious hooks, and even more eccentric. From the slow opening peals of "Ricochet," with its lilting two-octave melody, to the ending Carnival-esque cacophony of "When the River," all the many influences of Lerche's past and present are crammed together in a shell so densely, that what we end up with is a fat, chalky, and impenetrable pearl.

"When I started out writing songs when I was a teenager it wasn't easy," he says. "I would sit and write and write. I was obsessed with trying to crack the code and write one song I felt good about. I kept at it for years without succeeding. It's never really been easy, and I guess it shouldn't be." Undoubtedly, Lerche's more remote adolescence in Bergen, Norway, provided the insulation for his strange development. No one seems to have told him that he put more music into his first verses than most people put into entire songs. "I always assumed that I would get more and more picky, specific, and ambitious," he says. "You keep wanting more out of your songwriting."

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  Topics: Music Features , Paradise Rock Club, Music, Sondre Lerche,  More more >
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