SONDRE LERCHE

"Two Way Monologue"

Astralwerks

Burt Bacharach. Nick Drake. Brian Wilson. Sondre Lerche isn't the Norwegian equivalent to any of those musical golden boys, although they -- and many others -- have been cited as the Scandinavian pop prodigy's antecedents. Lerche composes elegant melodies and sets them to arrangements that are both suave and playful. "Stupid Memory," for example, matches pedal steel guitar to what sounds like a theremin. But his lyrics, at least in English, are so mundane they make his songs seem less expressive than they are.

"Two Way Monologue," Lerche's second U.S. album, must be a post-breakup collection. Titles such as "It's Over" and "Days That Are Over" show the range of the tunesmith's recent musings. In these songs, time moves on, things change, and even the simplest things are an effort; as Lerche explains in one of the three "It's" titles, "It's our job to breathe." Fortunately for listeners, the CD's music is not such a struggle. The title track shows the range of Lerche's artifice: It opens as single-guitar ballad, becomes a brisk folk-rocker, shifts into space-jazz mode and then bounces back to part two. Anyone who can construct so eventful an arrangement should be able to write more artful words -- or find a collaborator who can.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Tuesday at Iota with the Golden Republic. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Sondre Lerche, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)