Sondre Lerche is a singer-songwriter at heart, turning his first-person poetry into little nuggets of personal pop that are appropriate for just voice and acoustic guitar. But the 28-year-old Norwegian has kept things interesting by consistently inviting company into the studio, going as far as giving his assistants band names on a couple of releases. He also likes to play dress-up, dolling up his songs in jazz, folk, rock, and other styles over the course of six proper studio albums. Lerche seems to be making some sort of career-defining statement by naming his latest after himself, but the music itself isn’t so definitive. As proven on 2007’s rockier Phantom Punch, Lerche excels as he gets more rambunctious, and Sondre Lerche backs that up by reserving its best moments for the album’s most spirited songs. Lerche’s trusting delivery moves easily from fragile to falsetto—which makes him a sort of Scandinavian Ben Gibbard—and comfortably winds its way around two pop jams, “Private Caller” and “Go Right Ahead,” the latter of which perfectly integrates atmospheric keys and forceful strums to create one of his finest, catchiest tunes.
But otherwise, this eponymous release is as flavorless as its moniker—in spite of the notable piano, string, and accordion flourishes, the rest of the mostly subdued bunch isn’t all that memorable, with the possible exception of the closer, “When The River,” which gets its laid-back groove on and ends up making a pretty impressive showing with dramatic synths, echo-y vocals, and jangly guitar. The album is dominated by songs like “Living Dangerously,” which couldn’t be more of a misnomer: Presumably in tribute to his marriage, Lerche can be heard bragging about doing things his own way (like not having a lawn to mow—no, seriously) atop a lazy, acoustic-led folk-pop tune (replete with harmonica solo) that’s been heard plenty of times before.