On Kiss and Tell, the latest release from Sweden’s Sahara Hotnights, Maria Andersson and her band mates manage to convey a self-important swagger and sneer alongside catchy hooks and new wave beats. Their sound is most easily compared to that of their former tour mates and neighbors from across the pond, the Donnas. The band, made up of childhood friends Andersson, Jennie and Johanna Asplund, and Josephine Forsman first found critical acclaim in the States with the release of their sophomore album, Jennie Bomb, in 2001. Kiss and Tell comes across as a polished and more lyrically driven version of the former, incorporating less punk snarl and more synthesized melody. Still, tracks like “Keep Calling My Baby” prove that without the heavy instrumentals, Andersson’s voice shines even brighter. The obviously accented cries throughout “Nerves,” manage to be singsong and anxiety-inducing all at the same time, while being skillfully layered with rambunctious guitar riffs, chants and claps that beg to be bopped to. Where many albums within the genre tend to straddle the line between smart rock and cheesy pop, Sahara Hotnights unabashedly unites elements of classic rock, ’60s pop, ’80s new wave and punk to create simple, yet smart, songs. The sheer fun of the album’s opening track, “Who Do You Dance For?” works as an ideal leadoff, showcasing the sassy swank of Maria’s voice. The Hotnights’ nostalgic style, combined with intelligent lyrical craftsmanship, creates an enjoyable, pogo-inducing 11-track catalog for the inner pop fan in all of us.
[Alyson Comingore can be found doing her best “Debbie Harry” after a few drinks.]