Lerche ditches jazz for straight-up rock

Sondre Lerche and the Faces Down

“Phantom Punch”

4 out of 5 stars

Some of you may remember the last Sondre Lerche album I reviewed. It was an album with a jazz/lounge type feel that seemed like a natural progression for the young Norwegian singer-songwriter. After all, Lerche is one of the biggest proponents of jazz chords in popular music this decade.

Many people I played the record for didn’t seem to like it so much, as I expected due to its jazz/lounge stylings.

Well, you can forget about most of that this year. Lerche has come firing back with a powerful new record that is nearly zero jazz and a whole lot of rock.

The jazz chords are still there, but there are less of them and the amps have all been turned up to 11 (“Spinal Tap” anyone?).

Some listeners out there who look back on his previous works may question this 24-year-old viking’s ability to adequately craft a true rock-and-roll type album, but the record jumps quickly out of the gate with a harder sound both on the instrumentation and the lyrical delivery.

Even though both albums were recorded with the same band, they are perfect antitheses to each other, and “Phantom Punch” is certainly the more fun and engaging of the two.

From top to bottom it’s a fine rock album from a fairly unlikely source.

Key Tracks: “The Tape,” “Say It All,” “Face the Blood”

The Good, the Bad & the Queen

“The Good, the Bad & the Queen”

3 out of 5 stars

New from Damon Albarn, the musical mastermind behind the Gorillaz and Blur, arguably the greatest Britpop group ever, comes a new project very much different from the other two.

Enter The Good, The Bad and The Queen. A “supergroup” of sorts, the band features Albarn on keyboard, Simon Tong (the Verve) on guitar, Paul Simonen (the Clash) on Bass, Tony Allen (Fela Kuti) on percussion and Danger Mouse in the booth as the producer – some lineup, eh?

The result of their cumulative efforts is an album that the casual appreciator of music will think is cold and uninteresting. Heck, even I thought so at first.

The album doesn’t offer any loud or boisterous moments that will grab your ear right off the bat.

Many people will probably be turned away, but the true nature of the album comes out with a closer listen.

All of the instrumentation, from Tong’s guitar lines to Simonen’s dub bass, is done very subtly, and Danger Mouse’s production is a true winner here with its various atmospheric washes and arrangements.

This isn’t an album everyone will like, but it has grown on me more and more with every listen.

Key Tracks: “Northern Whale,” “Herculean”