When writer/director Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Pieces of April) first sought out Norweigan popster Sondre Lerche to compose and produce the soundtrack for his film Dan In Real Life, he had no inkling that the artist he so admired was so green, age-wise. Hedges only knew that organic, folky quality of the 25-year-old pop prodigy’s music reminded him of the soundtracks to The Graduate (Simon and Garfunkel) and Harold and Maude (Cat Stevens).
Ultimately, Lerche’s age wasn’t a deterrent to Hedges – it ended up highlighting Lerche’s enthusiasm and his hopeful, earnestly-voiced lyrics, adding a lighthearted tone to a film about a single father of three caught in a bizarre love triangle.
From there, the songs are sandwiched with mini-instrumentals of guitars, horns and piano, smoothing hope into rough pessimism. On his have-it-out fight song with a charming appearance by Regina Spektor (“Hell No”), Lerche and Spektor ham it up in true “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” call-and-response style. In “I’ll Be OK,” Lerche unloads a cautious, surrendering piece of pop vaudeville, reminiscent of a baggage-victim pouring out the contents of his heart over something strong, hoping that if the people at the bar pay him no mind, at least the alcohol will treat him kindly.
A Lerche-produced version of the classic “Fever” performed by A Fine Frenzy escalates the lounge shtick, but Lerche eases back into his own take on classic vintage pop. He finishes up proper “Human Hands,” a bouncy piano romp; a cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” (complete with trill–y strings); and a song from Lerche’s 2001 release Faces Down – “Modern Nature.” Lerche demonstrates on this soundtrack that not only can he deliver the sound he was originally sought out for, but he can deliver it in a manner that gives a deeper and more far-reaching humanity to the original story.