EW Staff
March 26, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Blond, blue-eyed, and boyish, Norway’s Sondre Lerche makes no secret of his love for Bacharach, Costello, and Porter (he often ends concerts with a giddy acoustic rendition of ”Night and Day”). But when the day’s work ends and night sets in, Lerche likes to drift off to the sounds of very different influences. ”Conan O’Brien or Letterman,” says the singer, whose dreamy sophomore effort, Two Way Monologue, dropped March 9. ”As long as I get to see the monologue. That’s the best.”

For a 21-year-old kid from a rainy Norwegian city with ”no music industry,” Lerche is a pop-culture junkie, who digs The Apprentice and Scarlett Johansson. He also gets a kick out of Kelis’ ”Milkshake,” though Monologue has a lot less rump-shaking funk and much more guitar-driven romanticism. Lerche, who has yet to tour the States with a full band, has built a fan base with just an acoustic guitar, some lightly accented charm, and a voice that goes from delicate to edgy in a heartbeat.

Two Way Monologue is even more lush and melodic than his 2002 debut, Faces Down. But Lerche says it’s also ”darker” and ”more complicated.” Not to worry: Late-night TV has taught him how to win over a crowd. ”Especially O’Brien,” he says. ”It’s weird and goofy, but he pulls it off. I’ll crack a joke before I force these songs on my audience.”

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