Armed with a velvety tenor that infuses his lyrics with an almost off-putting sense of calm, Lerche employs reference points that 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, and his characteristic space-lounge style makes a perfect fit for Lerche's own predilection for Brazilian pop, cool psychedelia, and the Beach Boys' sunny shine.
On Faces Down, Lerche moves from the 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. The 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.