Album Review: Sondre Lerche – Bootlegs

Reviewing an album isn’t always an exciting task. I know many a writer that hates the experience; they feel you have to sit in a room like some 5150 patient with nothing, but the music and the solitude. I despise that. If I were to do that for every new album I reviewed I’d grade them all negatively. Instead, I like to see what the album brings out as I wander the streets of San Francisco with my iPod on. Sunday I was headed back from the USF Record Fair when I was flagged down by a man sitting on a stalled car in the middle of the street. He asked if I could help him push it to the gas station that was a few blocks away.

In the front seat was a girl he said was helping him as well. My first instinct was to ignore him, as we so often do in our day to day lives with the homeless or people that would somehow infringe on our routine, but instead, perhaps inspired by the sounds of Sondre Lerche, I did the right thing. This isn’t cause for congratulation, but instead should be cause for concern. It took me a full three to five seconds before I went to help someone and as I was helping this man, who had to be in his fifties or sixties, I wondered why I paused and became a little bit depressed. Have I become so jaded that I have turned my back on my fellow man only to feel a seething contempt for their problems?

I like to think I’m a good person and that I’ll do the right thing when the situation arises, but still why did it take so long to just help? Perhaps, I was just being leery as these days you hear of people being, what they feel is, a Good Samaritan only to be tricked or robbed or even sued. As we got to the gas station, the man shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you. I really appreciate your help, sir.” And I nodded and walked away feeling slightly ashamed that I did it almost begrudgingly. I put my headphones back on and now that I was feeling somewhat happy, for having helped someone, and somewhat angry for not having done it without a thought, I was comforted by an album that, as you’ll see was almost never made.

Sondre Lerche doesn’t like the way he sounds live. He doesn’t feel it represents the sound he wishes to convey to an audience, the sound that is so prevalent on his recorded albums. This is a guy that has toured with Elvis Costello twice, Beth Orton and one of his boyhood idols A-ha. When he thinks he’s not sounding like he should, it pushes him to get better, so perhaps it is merely a drive within him to not quit. I’m not trying to read anything into this; I’m just taking cues from the man himself. We all need something within ourselves to keep us going, to motivate us. Sondre’s is wanting to sound better every time he gets on that stage.

With Bootlegs, he has found something in his voice or maybe in his mind, an acceptance, if you will, that allows him to feel at peace with this record and with good reason. The Norwegian native has made a beautiful album with a sound that can only be described as phenomenal. He is part of that wave of Northern European imports (Of Monsters and Men, Jens Lekman) that are flooding our senses with oohs and ahs. There’s a subtle Pet Sounds feel about Lerche’s music like it’s inherently part of who he is. There’s even a hint of Bossa Nova, not a Stan Getz Boss Nova, but more like Brazil’s Seu Jorge Bossa Nova. It’s a hint, a lilt in the voice, a chord on a guitar, but it’s there.

The album is just a part of a collection of albums being released this year. Come October 2, there is going to be a slew of vinyl reissues coming your way. Duper Sessions, Phantom Punch, Two-Way Monologue and Faces Down are all being given the vinyl treatment which is a testament to the reemergence of vinyl and the staying power of Lerche’s work. This album of songs, many of which you’ve no doubt heard before, are so succinctly brilliant in their own right, but on this album, in the context with which we all muddle through our own existence deciding in a moment what kind of person we wish to represent to the rest of the world, its perfect.

Bootlegs is available now, get it here.

Sondre Lerche is currently on tour in the United States. He’ll be playing the Independent in San Francisco September 20. Tickets are available here.

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