Norwegian pop phenom Sondre Lerche is often compared to Burt Bacharach for his melodic, jazz-inflected compositions and silk-smooth vocals. Unfortunately, Lerche shares another trait with Bacharach: He kind of sucks as a lyricist. Throughout Heartbeat Radio, Lerche drops cringe-worthy lines and trots out D.O.A. clichés (“Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” rears its head) that distract from his indisputable talent as a composer and arranger. Following his flirtation with straight-up rock on Phantom Punch, Heartbeat is Lerche’s big, romantic, orchestral-pop record. Sugary melodies stack up on countermelodies (and counter-countermelodies — check out the dizzying string coda on “Good Luck” and the diet disco-funk of “I Cannot Let You Go”), but in many cases the flourishes fall just short of moving or memorable. While more technically accomplished, Heartbeat’s pleasantly vanilla vibe feels like a step backward from Punch, on which the songs were pumped up with energy and badly needed tension.
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