I’m not a HUGE fan of the Sounds at the time of writing, but the band has a lot going for them. In general, I think Sweden produces some of the highest quality indie music on the face of the planet (please refer to my love affair with the Shout Out Louds, my favorite band at the moment, who was in the recording studio this August!), and the Sounds are no exception. If I had to be critical, you could say that they’re a tad bit gaudy; their lead singer Maja Ivarsson being noted for her over-the-top stage performances, and so on. That all comes with the territory of a New Wave revival band, though, so I can’t be too hard on them.
That said, I’ve enjoyed their most recent effort from just the beginning of June, Crossing the Rubicon, a lot more than I anticipated. ‘My Lover’ was OK as a single, but past that there are some other real gems on the album. I never get through one of these things without talking about the ‘balance’ of the album; this one is pretty strange! The bulk of the good tracks fall mostly in the middle. Sure, the opening ‘No Sleeps When I’m Awake’ is OK, but I kinda get distracted by what those lyrics could possibly be mean to really be into it. The previously mentioned ‘My Lover’ and the dance-y ‘Dorchester Hotel’ work as a nice pair, but then we finally get to ‘Beatbox‘.
This is the Sounds at their best, flirting with hip hop influences through the medium of the electronic New Wave sound in which they are so at home. This is in sharp contrast to the last 3 songs at the end of the record where they turn off most of the synth and slow everything down. Man, it does not work at all. I can understand wanting to do something different, but you gotta know your forte, and it is always a little uncomfortable when a band pretends to be something they’re not. That’s just the end of the album though; I’ve got to reiterate the most of the first two thirds are the Sounds at their best.
My favorite track on the record, ‘Underground‘, is a happy medium between the synth-heavy pop-beat tracks that are ‘signature’ for the group and their attempt to extend their range as a musical ensemble. The vocals are less urgent, and more empathetic, leaving one with not only the inclination but also the opportunity to ponder their meaning. ‘Midnight Sun’ is similar in this fashion, but represents the extent to which the Sounds should have pursued this musical line of thought. It would have made a fantastic conclusion, or even penultimate track.
Crossing the Rubicon – The Sounds
(Sorry I’ve been getting lazy about the purchase links; you should look into buying this album!)