Review: ‘Avatars of Love’ by Sondre Lerche
Norwegian-born troubadour Sondre Lerche’s reputation as an exceptional singer-songwriter is well established, but his latest offering, an expansive set of songs spanning two discs, amounts to his most ambitious effort to date. Born of pure, unfettered emotion, it’s a vivid example of what happens when instinct and inspiration find common cause.
In less capable hands, that could lead to an unfortunate overtake, but in Lerche’s case, there’s never a false note or unintended consequence. The sultry opener “Guarantee That I’d Be Loved” sets the tone, a nostalgic expression of pure sentiment encased in an ethereal melody. The shifting samba-like rhythm found in “Dead of the Night” and “My Love Still Awaits” maintains the gripping pace that continues unabated throughout a ninety-minute span. Some songs, notably “Will We Ever Comprehend”, take on the allure of late-night clubbing, with a decidedly sultry and seductive swoon and sway. Leonard Cohen seems an obvious influence; “Now She Sleeps Beside Me” actually sounds like “Suzanne” redux.
In a real sense, love avatars is a conceptual effort, measured in terms of sheer feel and finesse. Lerche seems content to let her muse take her wherever she wants, allowing unlimited expression of pure passion. Admittedly, these are not songs of a hummable variety. The melodies tend to meander – “What Makes Me Tick” and the title track are prime examples – and several find a shift in sound, leading to extended passages that incorporate symphonic arrangements with a sensible, jazzy motif. Plus, a variety of guest vocalists add verve and variety while enhancing the mood and mystique. Even a song that begins with a seemingly simple premise, such as “Turns Out I’m Sentimental After All”, finds its way into the mood and atmosphere. Similarly, “The Other Side of Ecstasy” is as engaging as its title suggests.
An impressive achievement, love avatars plumbs the depths of desire with extraordinary effect.