Do you know that song “Walk Away Renee”? It’s the one they used to spin a lot on oldies radio (back when oldies radio was, y’know, an actual thing). It’s that one with those painful lyrics and that sweet, sweet melody, all gussied up with harpsichord and those lush strings. The one that really sounds like nothing else from that era? Well, it’s by a UK band called The Left Banke. And about 10 years ago, I almost fell headlong into a deep obsession with them.
Almost. I tried. I mean I really, really tried. I wanted to celebrate The Left Banke’s entire catalog, but it was not meant to be. I was so excited by their sound – the mix of these classical instruments into the guitar pop of the day – but I couldn’t find another song as well-crafted and catchy as “Walk Away Renee”. They weren’t bad songs by any means, but nothing timeless, nothing great.
Fortunately, this search into their catalog left a profound effect on my musical tastes. And I was delighted to discover that plenty of current artists had taken a cue from The Left Banke, but penned much, much better tunes. Even to this day, when I hear The Divine Comedy, Rufus Wainwright, Badly Drawn Boy, High Llamas, Belle & Sebastian or Elliott Smith I get a little stirred up inside. That great baroque pop production is there, but it’s only there to serve great songs.
Sondre Lerche plays this game and he plays it better than most. After 10 years, Lerche has honed his sound, perfecting his widescreen pop ideas. You can hear the confidence on his seventh record, 2009’s Heartbeat Radio.
Instead of gushing on and on with rock journo cliches about how lush and bold this record sounds and how the melange of styles and influences converge seamlessly into cohesion, I’m gonna keep it simple. Heartbeat Radio is a Sondre Lerche record. A really great Sondre Lerche record. And if you know what I mean by that, then consider yourself blessed. If you don’t, well then, you’ve got a bit of a dilemma, don’t you? Fix it. Start with 2004’s Two Way Monologue and work your way up.
Unlike The Left Banke (God bless ’em), Sondre Lerche knows how to write great songs. Not one, not two, but loads of ’em. Yes, yes his default setting is to dress these tunes up with big, bold production (well, usually… there are always exceptions. See “My Hands are Shaking” from the soundtrack to that movie with that guy from The Office). But listen underneath the sheen and you’ll find a songwriter with a knack for writing songs with deceptively complex structure and melodies you’ll be glad to have stuck in your brain.
Need proof? Well we got it here at Lake Fever Sessions. Since he didn’t have time to bring in his full band, Lerche sat down with his acoustic and filled our little studio with truly beautiful things. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed capturing it.