Sondre Lerche

Mon March 3, Sonic Boom Records (Capitol Hill)

w/Nada Surf, the People

Tues March 4, Crocodile, $10 DOS/$8 adv.

Lucky is the musician who can best be described as a man-child. Also known as the girl-boy, the man-child--recently personified by Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and epitomized a decade ago by Beck--is that artist women and men (both gay and straight) want to feed as much as they want to fuck.

The man-child's voice is often too deep or woe-filled for a body so tender and slight of build, and his eyes flash from searching to cool behind the sweep of an enviable set of lashes. His songwriting influences are culled from eras that passed long before his birth; his knowledge of obscure artists has been known to stymie even the most scholarly of critics. All of these traits can be attributed to 20-year-old Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche, who has become the stuff of heated fantasies set to soundtracks of his shimmering pop and sweetly psychedelic torch songs.

Lerche's Astralwerks debut, Faces Down, finds the singer playing guitar and the occasional keyboard; High Llamas arrangement wizard Sean O'Hagan contributes strings to the mix, making for a lushness that swoops in and out as songs stutter and cascade. Now fitful and urgent, now sweetly openhearted, Lerche betrays his early heroes and fellow countrymen A-ha, expressing the essence of pop icons such as Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, and Cole Porter. His combination of influences places the Norwegian in the company of Elliott Smith (another ageless man-child); both artists have the ability to write timeless pop that could as easily have floated forth from the great wood-encased radios of the 1940s as from those tuned to today's college stations.

Norwegian artists like Turbo Negro and Gluecifer have captured America's attention with their ear-shredding roar, but Lerche is in the same club as the graceful, harmony-loving Kings of Convenience, whose 2001 album title, Quiet Is the New Loud, says it all. The frail articulation at the heart of Faces Down speaks boldly, casting Lerche as a posturing child who has yet to learn that his innocence is his charm.