The five twenty-something Swedes who make up the Sounds might be too young to remember when New Wave was actually "new," but their feisty, bouncy synth-pop on "Dying to Say This to You" harks back to some of the era's best, such as Blondie and Missing Persons. Singer Maja Ivarsson bellows lyrics with a cutting tone that's more confident than caustic, as she yowls, "I don't feel no pity/Without me you're nothing at all" ("Song With a Mission") with a charming cockiness.
The Sounds' intensity never fades through the pulsing "Queen of Apology" and the rowdy "Painted by Numbers." Not surprising for a group that relies so much on a driving energy, the Sounds stumble with the wailing ballad "Night After Night" but recover easily by reprising the tune as a bouncy rocker.
Although Morningwood's Chantal Claret oozes a similar attitude on the New York quartet's debut, she also relies on a more overt sexuality. She alternates breathy moans with passionate squeals on the seductive "Take Off Your Clothes" and channels a Shirley Manson sultriness on "Body 21." Without much in the way of original lyrics ("My body's twenty-one but my mind is ageless"), Morningwood stoops to such tedious gimmicks as repeatedly spelling out the group's name on "Nth Degree," suggesting that they stayed awake for sex-ed class but never learned much about subtlety.
-- Catherine P. Lewis