It’s hard to think of Norway’s Sondre Lerche without thinking of his sunny, smiley approach to music. In 2002, Lerche released one of the year’s finest albums with Faces Down. This time around, Lerche is sticking with what he knows best–the poppy, happy-go-lucky sounds that evoke smiles from listeners–his Two Way Monologue. Instead of trying to reinvent himself as many artists do on sophomore releases, Lerche was smart to stay with what fits him.
“Love You” transports off into a world with fields of daisies, azure skies, and little worry. From then on it’s bliss in its simplest form. “On the Tower” is insanely catchy with Lerche’s voice matched perfectly to the music. While his voice is not classically great; he is different in the fact his vocals aren’t the driving force of the record. Yet somehow, Lerche makes each song work. The title track “Two Way Monologue” keeps the buoyant pace rolling on; it is not until a minute into the song that the beat truly picks up, but it is hard to remember that fact when Lerche sings of “chasing rabbits on the hill.” The next song, “Days That Are Over” is the first song that really conquers something. Maybe getting caught up on the music makes one miss the point, but the thin veil of music in this song allows the lyrics to show through.
Enough about the songs; they are all poppy and sunny. The most important thing is that Lerche is maturing and growing as an artist in front of a wide audience. It is apparent that he is still nervous and unsure of where to go just yet. He probably made the right choice in deciding to tread through familiar ground. What’s more impressive is the fact that Lerche is still at a young age and wrote most of the material in his latter teens. He has time to perfect his craft, but for now, it is these flaws that make his music infectious.
Walking away from this release, I was stuck on a pop high. Perhaps it is best to take this album one track at a time and appreciate each one with pace; the avalanche of music pouring at the listener is almost too much to digest in one sitting. Talent to make something that is memorable and is easy to listen to is hard to get. It is not something that is often found raw, but Lerche is special as he possesses this talent at such youthful stature. Lerche has clearly matured in regards to songwriting and performance, but he still has room to grow. Without doubt, the public will be seeing great things coming out from him in the next few years.
The reason to buy this album doesn’t rest in Lerche’s vocals. It doesn’t rest in his lyrics. It rests in the simple fact that you’ll be happy after you’re done listening. And honestly, who doesn’t want to listen to an album and feel happy about it?
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Pine – Pine
Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia
Where did Ottawa’s Pine come from? It’s a question worth asking after listening to their painfully gorgeous self-titled debut album. Pine use the phrase “doom and gloom never sounded so sweet” to describe their sound, and true to that, this 11-track outing is filled with the kind of hypnotic melancholia that became the playbook for a great many Midwestern emo bands that emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s. The biggest difference here is that while Pine have the heartbreak down pat, their musical sense of loss is lifted slightly by the airy, more wistful sounds of their guitar-strewn songs. Sure, there’s a lot that sounds like a great Mineral record or a Gloria Record album, but there’s also traces of Florida indie/emo band The Rocking Horse Winner and at times, bands like Rainer Maria.
Pine are buoyed by the great vocal work of Darlene Deschamps. Her voice soars through tracks like “Memento” and the terrific “Lusk”. The latter in particular is a great example of how Pine lull you into a sense of calm before it explodes in a collage of symphonic distortion and post-rock twinkling. In “Sunder” they ascend to louder, more expansive sounds. The song is a great combination of thick, fuzzy guitars, mid-tempo percussion work, and that pained vocal delivery that gives the song an extra punch in the guts.
The album took an impressive 2 years to finish, and you can hear the trials and tribulations of that gestation period through the songs. There’s pain, sadness, anger and frustration in songs like the intro “Within You” and the more new emo-esque “Swollen”, but also beauty, and as the album concludes, a sense of incredible catharsis. The record SOUNDS great too, with production values (by a production team that includes Will Yip, who has helmed records by Circa Survive, Braid, Saosin, and the Bouncing Souls to name a few) adding to the grand cinematic finish of the record.
For those who love what emo was in the mid to late 90s will find much to like about Pine just as much as those who like Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock brethren. Pine have been crafting their sound over the last few years and while their previous EP Pillow Talk showed a solid foundation, this new self-titled record is the work of a band close to the height of their abilities. Moving, beautiful, and littered with life’s roller coaster of emotions as songs, Pine is definitely recommended listening.