Sondre Lerche

Dan in Real Life

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While in the beginning stages of making his film Dan in Real Life, director Peter Hedges went looking for someone to provide music the way Cat Stevens did for Harold and Maude or Simon & Garfunkel for The Graduate, someone to filter the meaning and feel of the movie through his songs. It's hard to argue with his choice; ever since his first record, 2002's Faces Down, Sondre Lerche has proven himself to be a fine chronicler of romantic confusion and winsome melancholy. Lerche was part of the process from almost the very beginning, even attending auditions for main characters and sleeping overnight in the house where the film was shot. The album is made up of a couple of songs from previous albums (a jazzy take on Elvis Costello's "Human Hands" from 2006's Duper Sessions; "Modern Nature," his lovely duet with Lillian Samdal from 2002's Faces Down; and the peppy "Airport Taxi Reception," one of the highlights from 2007's Phantom Punch), plus newly recorded songs. It being a soundtrack, there are several short instrumental pieces, most featuring Lerche on acoustic guitar with subtle backing from pedal steel, trumpet, or piano. They're all very pretty and surely sound nice when sprinkled through the film, but what makes this soundtrack very good are the actual songs Lerche composed for the film. Best of the lot is the lilting and sweet-as-punch "To Be Surprised," but the others are nearly as good, especially "Hell No," a witty duet between Lerche and a very snappy Regina Spektor. Along with short instrumentals, another thing you're sure to find on a soundtrack are stunt covers, easily recognizable songs rendered with a heavy dose of ironic hipness as an easy way to get audiences hooked without seeming like you're pandering to them. Here Lerche adds syrupy strings to Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" and escapes pretty harmlessly, but A Fine Frenzy's stilted take on "Fever" makes one wish that Congress would pass a bill banning future covers of the song. At the end, (if you leave off the covers) the soundtrack presents a clear picture of Lerche's talent and the high quality of his songs and performances. It probably won't make him a huge star like soundtrack work did for Stevens and S&G, but it might hook a few people who had never heard of him before. Good for them and good for Lerche. He deserves every break he can get.

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