Please is Sondre Lerche’s seventh studio album in a recording career spanning 13 years and multiple genres: from his bossa nova- and folk-inflected debut Faces Down to the spiky power pop of 2007’s Phantom Punch via detours such as 2005’s jazzy Duper Sessions and even a Hollywood movie’s soundtrack album (Dan In Real Life).
The common thread of all these releases is Lerche’s winning way with a melody and his talent for off-kilter arrangements that usually stay on the right side of quirkiness. Both are on display across Please’s 10 tracks. If anything separates Please from Lechre’s previous releases, it’s the album’s intermittent ugliness. The otherwise jaunty opener Bad Law is derailed by some discordant riffing, At A Loss For Words is sliced in half by an atonal guitar solo, while Sentimentalist closes with a wave of white noise.
Please’s rough edges comprise a useful analogue for the album’s ugly subject matter. This is his divorce album: Lerche split from his wife of eight years during its writing and recording. Thankfully, though, the overall tone of the album is neither bitter nor twisted: instead, the album’s lyrics riffle through the range of often contradictory impulses that come with the dissolution of a long-term relationship.
There’s petulance (“When you’re with me I don’t understand / Why on earth we would ever speak again”), self-pity (“Damned if I fight, damned if I don’t”), hard-earned perspective (“I am such a lucky guy to have seen the world through you … I won’t lie, truly you broke me”), while the chorus of At Times We Live Alone does an accurate impression of a love affair in its death throes: “Please, I love you, try get angry / Try go fuck off or call a friend / Try again, till the end”. (Perhaps too accurate an impression: lurching on for an interminable six minutes, the song is the album’s sole misstep.)
Legends, meanwhile, takes the valediction “Now we’ll never know what legends we were meant to be” and sets it in an anthemic chorus complete with the type of celebratory “woah-oh-oh”-ing that’s become a staple of radio playlists. The effect is partly ironic, partly regretful and wholly uplifting.
And yet Lerche’s words are always likely to be overshadowed by his music, which continues to showcase his mastery of melody. Ear-snagging choruses abound on Legends, Bad Law, Crickets, Lucifer and At A Loss For Words, while Sentimentalist and Lucky Guy are beguilingly pretty, the latter harking back to his earlier, Tin Pan Alley-inspired work.
The more abrasive elements of Please mean that, on the first couple of plays, it might pinch and pull like a new pair of shoes. But, give it a fair hearing, and eventually Lerche’s resplendent melodies will shine through and something akin to a mild obsession might gradually take hold.