Sondre Lerche's third album, 2006's Duper Sessions, is a surprise. Maybe even a shock. Certainly anyone who was expecting him to follow up Two Way Monologue with another great pop record may be disappointed. At first. Once you reconcile yourself to the idea that Lerche has made a jazz-pop record, the songcraft, laid-back approach and Lerche's sweet vocals might just win you over. If the idea of jazz scares you with visions of endless bass solos, rest assured there is minimal soloing as the Faces Down Quartet (Eric Halvorsen on piano, Morten Skage on upright bass, Ole Ludvig Kruger on drums, and Kato Ådland on guitars) provide very subtle and relaxed backing throughout, ensuring that Lerche's intimate vocals and songs are the real stars of the show. While Lerche does an acceptable job on the straight-ahead jazz tunes like "Everyone's Rooting for You," "I'm Not from Here," and " (You Knocked Me) Off My Feet," swinging and crooning with style and soul, the most interesting songs are those that take his usual smart and melodic indie pop songs and give them the acoustic jazz treatment. "Minor Detail" sounds like it could have fit on his previous albums with guitars, "The Curse of Being in Love" is a rollicking pop tune with a country & western undertone, " (I Wanna) Call It Love" gives Lerche a chance to show off the near-perfect arranging skills he honed on Two Way Monologue, and "You Look Swell" is a soulful and tender love song that borrows from classic doo wop song structure. Lerche also gives a couple of covers the jazz treatment, showing Elvis Costello a trick or two on his slinky and swinging cover of "Human Hands," and lightly and politely crooning Prefab Sprout's "Nightingales." There are a couple of moments that don't hold up very well like the cover of "Night and Day" and the cutesy "Across the Land," but for the most part Lerche has made the switch to jazz crooner painlessly. Apart from a similar feel at times, the two don't have all that much in common, one can imagine fans of Jamie Cullum enjoying this record quite a bit. As should fans of Lerche's previous work, if they keep their minds and ears open and give it a chance.
Duper Sessions Review
by Tim Sendra