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Album Review

Lerche’s ‘Radio’ picks up past eras

September 7, 2009

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Pop
Sondre Lerche Heartbeat Radio
Rounder
ESSENTIAL “Good Luck’’
Sondre Lerche plays at the Paradise Rock Club on Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18, $16 advance at www.livenation.com or 877-598-8689.

Norwegian songsmith Sondre Lerche has done it again: assembled another batch of perfect pop tunes that manage to be upbeat while wistful, optimistic while nostalgic. You forget that he’s only 26; it seems like forever ago that he released his stunning debut album at the age of 19.

Like its predecessors, “Heartbeat Radio’’ is a remarkably mature achievement that’s filled with the influence of bands that had broken up long before Lerche came of age: Fleetwood Mac, XTC, and, yes, the Beatles. And like those artists’ best work, “Heartbeat Radio’’ is superbly crafted and lushly orchestrated, with jangling guitars, crisp drums, and soaring strings supporting Lerche’s effortless vocals.

The opening track, “Good Luck,’’ would hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in a different era. It’s a nugget of ’70s AM gold, with a sunny-but-cloudy outlook to match: “Good luck,’’ Lerche sings, “don’t you feel so bad/ Just don’t get your hopes up.’’ Yet on the very next tune, the title track, this same singer indicts the homogeneity he hears on the radio these days: “FM has become automatic/ I want to know/ Did the DJ drown in a sea of reverb and compression?’’

Elsewhere there are gems of pop songs (“Easy to Persuade,’’ “Almighty Moon,’’ “Don’t Look Now’’) and tunes that must have been inspired by old musicals; you can almost imagine Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing “Words and Music’’ together. (Out tomorrow) STEVE GREENLEE