Sondre Lerche is aging well. His stylish pop songs are turning into sophisticated rock songs, and his recent jazz kick is part of the reason why. In 2006, he released Duper Sessions and showed off a jazzier side that wasn’t supposed to be sustained as much as evolutionary. The loungy piano sounds from that album are reflected onto more powerful rock guitars on his new album, Phantom Punch. The precision he took away from Duper Sessions combines with damn-near-natural talent to write a pop song throughout his catalog to spawn an absorbing record.
On Phantom Punch, Lerche turns his amps up on a variety of robust pop songs. On “The Tape”, he flips on the distortion and semi-thrashes towards punk. “Say It All” is an 80’s pop swing. “Phantom Punch” is a Franz-y danz-march that evokes a rollerskate nightclub. Phantom Punch is, as a whole, more intense than his previous albums, and is as thoughtfully designed. He’s forgone most of the ornate arrangements for more emphatic patterns.
The vocals on Phantom Punch aren’t as liquid anymore. His tone is more mature here. There’s a more serious, immediate style to Lerche’s vocals on Phantom Punch. They’re not coy like the crooning on Duper, but employ a level of bite along with the crunchier rhythms. Above all else, his voice is unmistakenly polished and well-tuned, but this time around, he uses it more recklessly.
Why did Lerche rock out more this time around? It couldn’t be that Americans have mangled the idea of pop so much that even foreigners can’t even enjoy it to the fullest anymore. It’s more that his throwback sound has become more relevant, as if to skip from the 60’s to (at least) the 90’s over the course of a few albums. On thing’s for sure: his promising talent is still on course for a highly prolific career.