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Music Review: The Sounds – Crossing the Rubicon

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Vibrant and swelling with colour, The SoundsCrossing the Rubicon is just the sort of triumphant, optimistic fare for making summer nights on the town all the more exciting.

This, their third album, functions much in the same way as their other albums do. The grand sense of effective guitar, the rock-solid synth-pop slither, and the deep anthemic drive cruises through every single track while vocalist Maja Ivarsson energetically runs through her paces.

New Wave acts tend to conjure visions of damp club kids in thin leather pants and alarmingly obnoxious sunglasses posturing and posing and strutting through a glitzy neon nightclub. The Sounds, however, manage to keep it exciting while avoiding the charade that so often comes with the territory.

There’s a lot of word about The Sounds essentially mining the 80s for their approach and their tone, but a few spins of Crossing the Rubicon reveals a band with genuine spunk couched in quick guitar and catchy synthesiser-based melodies that have everything to do with the present.

The rhythm section of Fredrik Nilsson’s drums and Johan Bengtsson’s bass pulse through the elegant haze of sound provided by Ivarsson’s crystalline, inviting vocals, Felix Rodriguez’s guitar, and Jesper Anderberg’s lively, determined keys. With tight production and flawless mixing, Crossing the Rubicon sounds fantastically sophisticated and silky.

“No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” opens things up with Rodriguez’s smooth guitar riff and loads into a nice synth-rock set-up. Ivarsson’s vocals cruise in, flying strongly over the Rodriguez and Anderberg interplay. “I’ve got confessions to make,” she sings before launching into the song’s infectious chorus.

The funky and flavourful “4 Songs and a Fight” pumps with another great melody and a somewhat cheeky Ivarsson holding her notes and letting them slide around cheerfully.

There are those who may find The Sounds a touch too involved with their retro influences, but I couldn’t help but be captivated by the Helsingborg natives and their wisdom in terms of creating great tunes. Most tracks had me gladly tapping my feet and nodding my head, serving as jubilant cures for the blahs thanks in large part to Ivarsson’s intensely alluring vocals.

Even with all the foot-tapping stuff, The Sounds find a way to lower the lights and create cherished moments.

“The Only Ones” is a beautiful piano-led cut, once again launched into sonic paradise by Ivarsson’s vocal command. Her confidence and control is staggering, as is her ability to blend with the instruments with Springsteen-esque bravery.

Whether or not The Sounds crack much new ground with Crossing the Rubicon isn’t really the issue here, at least for me. Instead, far beyond whether the Pitchfork-carrying hounds love it or hate it, the utter purity of this record stands out. This is clean electrifying synth-pop at its best, showcasing a band whose penchant for joyous, vivacious music is defiantly instinctive.

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