When you’re 24 and your discography already contains both a smooth-jazz record and the soundtrack to Dan In Real Life, it’s going to be hard to earn back the trust of discerning music fans. On Heartbeat Radio, Sondre Lerche’s redemption strategy is not just to return to form, but to go completely overboard in the process. Orchestration once made Lerche’s feather-light songs even lighter, but this record is straight-up chamber-pop—Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas even shows up to arrange horns and strings.
Radio sprinkles in everything from trombone to banjo, and the increased instrumentation gives the music more weight and a little more drama. A few songs have undeniably strong melodies, perhaps none more than “Easy To Persuade,” on which guitars shine through a bubbling waterfall of synth. Although it starts slow, “I Guess It’s Gonna Rain Today” ends with a compellingly lush orchestrated outro courtesy of O’Hagan. It raises the question of whether Lerche’s copy of Rufus Wainwright’s Poses has any finish left on it, but the style fits the songwriting, and Lerche adopts it with total confidence. Even with these changes, Heartbreak Radio sounds too breezy to make a lasting impression, but Lerche has done worse—a lot worse.