Phantom Punch (Astralworks)
Following the jazz-pop indulgence of last year's Duper Sessions, LP No. 3, Sondre Lerche comes out swinging on Phantom Punch. Just don't expect a knockout. While the prolific Norwegian singer-songwriter bobs and weaves with the best of Scandinavian pop, taking jabs at Bacharach and early Costello, Punch buries its best shots behind too much guitar and gratuitous arrangements. The title track spars with a fuzzy Franz Ferdinand hook, while Lerche's swooning vocals on "The Tape" and "Face the Blood" are lost in the pummeling beats and riffs. When Lerche settles into a groove, however, few are smoother. "After All" and "Tragic Mirror" weigh in like the best moments of 2004's Two Way Monologue, complete with odd, lost-in-translation phrasing, while "She's Fantastic" delivers an exuberant, punch-drunk haymaker. Although he's not quite yet a contender, the kid's got heart. (Thursday, March 15, Antone's, 10:30pm)
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