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They’ve blasted past the decade mark, released three acclaimed albums, and indisputably owned more than a thousand shows in over 25 countries. By now, people know: When it comes to sassy, confident, feel–good rock ’n’ roll Sweden’s The Sounds are the gold standard. Even as they’ve evolved markedly since their 2002 breakthrough debut, Living In America, the Malmö–based quintet has remained true to their New Wave soul, delivering that perfect mix of sass and smarts, old and new, electric and electronic every time. Even through label shakeups and grueling tour schedules, The Sounds have been remarkably reliable, but when it came time to make their fourth album, Something To Die For, they realized it was time for a major change.

“We’ve grown so much together and we know exactly what we want,” says Felix Rodriguez, the group’s resident rock star, guitarist, and one of the main songwriters. “So why hire other people– This is the first time we’ve produced an album ourselves and it was an amazing experience. We are the ones that know each other best.” While The Sounds’ last two albums – Dying To Say This To You (2006) and Crossing The Rubicon (2009) – were recorded Stateside with a handful of talented producers on board (including Jeff Saltzman, Mark Saunders, James Iha, and Adam Schlesinger), Something To Die For is one hundred percent The Sounds. Not only did the band produce the album themselves, but they wrote and recorded it in their very own studio over much of 2010.

“It took discipline,” says Maja Ivarsson, the towheaded vocal vamp of the band, “but the sound we got was exactly what we’d been looking for, and never found, at other studios. Something kinda harsh and a little cold – it’s hard to put into words, but here we were, in our own place, listening back to what we’d recorded, and we’re like, ‘This is it!’” From opener “It’s So Easy,” the difference is palpable. With four on the floor, the band bangs out a pulsing track that goes from ominous to blindingly bright as it approaches the transcendent “Dance With The Devil.” Here, Maja promises to “conquer our planet with dance,” and with anthemic, electro–fueled tracks like “Better Off Dead” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” The Sounds may do just that.

“We’ve been interested in electronic music from the beginning,” says Jesper Anderberg, keyboardist, guitarist and other main writer. “That’s actually why a lot of us started playing music, and we wanted to emphasize that a bit more this time.” When most of the group came together in 1998 as high school students in Helsingborg, they were “club kids” says Felix. Rounded out by bassist Johan Bengtsson and drummer Fredrik Blond, The Sounds have always displayed a healthy respect for bombastic synths and propulsive beats, but on Something To Die For, the feeling is bigger, broader and bolder. Of course, the same could be said about the band’s rocking side.

Songs like “Diana” show off The Sounds’ undeniable penchant for playful post–punk, while “The No No Song” is pure rock–pop rave–up, with Maja spitting vitriol through a vicious sneer: “It didn’t matter to you when it felt so right /And now you lost it all, well you’re not so bright.” All of it comes together perfectly on the titular song and album centerpiece, “Something To Die For” where, over the course of five and a half minutes, Jarre–like atmosphere dissolves into a speaker–crushing thump that climaxes in a winning collision of red hot guitars and icy keyboards. “It’s all about passion and dedication,” says Maja. “That’s what the title means –– it’s something to be proud of, something to stand up for … something to die for.”

After all of this fabulous bluster, Something To Die For comes to a surprisingly quiet close with “Wish You Were Here.” Over a rolling, folksy acoustic guitar, Maja coos, “Give me your hand and we’ll go somewhere.” The truth is, The Sounds had us in their palms from the very first note.