For all his candor, Lerche plays his cards close to his vest: There's no telling whether he's talking about sexual chemistry or the pharmacological kind in the tune. Time and again throughout the record, he veils his confessions behind oblique couplets such as "When there is fear you won't have to cry/ Napkins are here, they'll dry your eyes/ And blind them, and blind them" (from "Dead Passengers").
Perhaps Lerche's reticence reflects his background. Though he sounds vaguely British, he's actually Norwegian, and a typically Scandinavian reserve undercuts his most effusive moments. While Lerche's reference points are familiar staples of Anglo-American folk and rock -- Nick Drake, the Velvet Underground, and Leonard Cohen -- Sean O'Hagan of Stereolab and High Llamas fame adds buoyancy to the proceedings via his airy string arrangements. O'Hagan's characteristic space-lounge style makes a perfect fit for Lerche's own predilection for Brazilian pop, cool psychedelia, and the Beach Boys' sunny shine.
"Dead Passengers" reads like a road map of the rest of the album, moving from measured bossa nova to overdriven guitar and squalls of theremin. On Faces Down Lerche sidles from the kind of guileless, string-and-guitar balladry that marked Drake's Five Leaves Left to a vision of garagey power pop the Strokes wish they could pull off. Whereas that latter group once asked Is This It?, Lerche's record provides the answer: This is it, one of the year's most affecting and endearing albums, a perfect pop gem that shines brighter as the daylight fades.