Sahara Hotnights – Kiss & Tell

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

This is another one of those unfortunately overlooked albums in my collection. Playing this again for the first time in a long time was eye-opening. This album is fantastic! Why had I forgotten about this?! HOW had I forgotten about this?! I blame the anhedonia from my debilitating depression. I am def going to have to check out the later Sahara Hotnights albums.

What I Think of This Album

This is the album Sahara Hotnights was born to make. For all its pleasures, the sound of Jennie Bomb threatened to lead the band down a dead end street (whereupon they would have pulled switchblades out and commenced to kicking ass, but still). The band was wise to transcend their garagey roots, leave out the more traditionally hard rock elements, and lean strongly into pop. The result is a shiny, peppy third album that gladly barters brashness for sophistication. Lead singer Maria Andersson sounds more assured, the harmonies of Jennie and Johanna Asplund are given more attention, and keyboards abound. None of this is to say these songs are bland or boring – Sahara Hotnights still rock with sweaty abandon. It’s just now there is some glitter and eyeliner mixed in with that sweat.

Whether or not it is a coincidence that the change in sound arrives with their major label debut, Sahara Hotnights takes full advantage of the big money opportunity immediately. Opener “Who Do You Dance For?” is like a grittier Blondie; the bass tone is excellent, the Asplunds’ harmonies are killer, and Andersson sings with buckets of attitude.

Putting up a fight for top honors is “The Difference Between Love and Hell,” with an unstoppable bass drum, catchy riffing, a keyboard line that the Cars would have sold all their Vargas girl posters for, a hypermelodic chorus, and some of Andersson’s best singing. I don’t think the fade out was the best choice for an ending, but everything else about this track is fantastic.

“Hot Night Crash” is a high octane rocker that is a mix of power pop and garage rock, arguably more muscular than anything on Jennie Bomb. “Empty Heart” initially gets by on Andersson’s sassy vocals, but the keyboard line that comes in is what puts the song over the top. And as on many of these tracks, Andersson is allowed to sing in a way she wasn’t on the previous album, to the benefit of all; she nails it on the chorus, for sure. 

The synthy goodness of “Stay/Stay Away” is irresistible, as the snaky line slithers its way into your heart, which is otherwise occupied with the desperate lyrics. A nasty guitar part and pummeling drums characterize swaggery, new wave influenced “Walk On the Wire.” The band comes together for the enthusiastic “Mind Over Matter,” and Andersson’s voice breaks appealingly on the sinewy “Stupid Tricks,” which uses a subtle organ to good effect.

There is a sort of rockabilly guitar sound to “Nerves,” and “Keep Calling My Baby” turns the volume and tempo down a tad to almost get within a fjord of ballad territory. The “ah ah ah ah ah”s are to die for and the melody is excellent, with Andersson communicating vulnerability, resentment, and heartbreak.

Andersson and drummer Josephine Forsman wrote all the songs together. The band thanks Jari Haapalainen (producer of the Concretes and Camera Obscura) in the liner notes. No one is credited with keyboards, which is unusual.

The Best Thing About This Album

The confident growth the band displays.

Release Date

July, 2004

The Cover Art

This is an alternate cover shown here, with a blue background and black text; my version has a white background with orange text but I could not find a good image of it online. Again with the two-toned aesthetic (on the version I own). This is a very new wave design, and I am a big fan. The diagonal tilt, the stripes, the sexy shoes, the stylish poses, the font for the band name. Excellent all around.

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