Album Review: Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio

by Marie Carney on September 18, 2009

Heartbeat Radio - The musical version of a Snuggie?

Heartbeat Radio - The musical version of a Snuggie?

Just in case you didn’t already know, Sondre Lerche is an indie-pop singer/songwriter from Norway.  Heartbeat Radio is his sixth album and it has the more polished sound that a sixth album should have.  It sounds like classic 60’s s pop songwriting with modern indie instrumentation.  What exactly does that sound like?  Like your parents favorite songs played by your favorite indie-pop band.  Could be the greatest thing ever, but does it really work?

The album opens with “Good Luck.”  Two guitars in contrasting rhythms, then Sondre Lerche’s clear, agile voice, and slowly over the next five minutes and fifteen seconds the song unfolds into more and more instruments and a lusher sound.  Drums.  Bass. More percussion.  Then finally strings to top it off.  Just when you think it’s going to be a boring old time the violin and cello go into, for lack of a better term, some crazy riffing.  It is a perfect opening track showcasing the best of the album:  great instrumental arangements.

Other than the instrumentation which is varied, interesting, and well played, everything on this album can be put into two catagories.  There is the jangly pop song, upbeat and catchy, which takes up most of the record, and there are the slow lilting pop songs.  Both are enjoyable and well crafted, but not surprising.  There are two exceptions to this rule.  Oddly one makes the album seem slightly more modern while the other makes it more old fasioned.  “If Only” feels like an attempt at a dance song, but adding a bit of punch and a sample to an indie-pop song does not a club hit make.  

The other surprising track, “Words & Music,” created a moment of horror for me on first listen.  It sounds similar to the other songs, but a little cheesier until the lyrics hit you:  “I’ll be words, you be music… when we get together we’re a song.”  I almost threw up in my mouth, but like a good reviewer, I kept listening and realized that with the harp, beat, flow of the vocal melody, dramatic crescendo at the end, and even the cheesy words it was a number straight out of a musical!  And oddly enough, it is now one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Heartbeat Radio didn’t bring me any revelations, but it did bring me comfort.  It takes a simple classic melody, then, by mixing in rock with classical instruments and arrangements, keeps it just interesting enough to make it listenable.  This album isn’t going to make heavy rotation in my playlists, but when I’m in my bed reading on a lazy Sunday morning this album is exactly what I want to hear.

Song to Download:   “Heartbeat Radio”

Song to Skip when Shuffling:  “Don’t Look Now”

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