Review Summary: Sleigh Bells are the real deal.
It's natural for people to disregard hype. After all, who hasn't had the nasty experience of getting all excited about a band that eventually proves to be insipid and boring? But sometimes, just sometimes, the hype machine is right. Sometimes there are bands that deserve the praise, the coveted Pitchfork "Best New Music" tags, and the countless blog posts.
Sleigh Bells is one of those bands. Ever since their debut at CMJ, they've been everywhere - Coachella, SXSW, you name it. They quickly became the "it" band of 2010 without even releasing a piece of music. They signed with M.I.A.'s boutique label, N.E.E.T., and before you know it, the quirky boy-girl duo that met in a diner in Brooklyn were stars.
With hype comes backlash, and Sleigh Bells has been called by plenty of people a "flavor-of-the-month" band. There were probably plenty of hipster-runoff types who were hoping that Treats
was going to be awful. But the haters will have to wait a little longer before they get their moment of triumph - on their debut LP, out now on iTunes and due for a physical release in June, Sleigh Bells craft a sound that is uniquely their own, and they confidently blast it out at ear-splitting levels. If you're going to blow out your speakers, this is the way to do it.
Derek E. Miller was formerly the guitarist for the post-hardcore band Poison the Well and singer Alexis Krauss was a member of the teen pop group Rubyblue, so it's not really a surprise that the sound that they have here is both an assault on the senses and a delectable piece of pop candy. The album opens with first single "Tell 'Em", which sounds like a pep rally infused with several cans of Red Bull. It makes a huge first impression and sets the scene. What follows is 32 minutes of giddy, exhilarating pop.
Half of the songs on Treats
have been floating around in the blogosphere for a while now, but they have all been re-recorded and some have been notably reworked. "Infinity Guitars" starts out sounding identical to its demo counterpart before barreling into an immense coda that will make your head explode.
As for the new tracks, they are mostly in the vein of the previously released songs, and they don't disappoint. "Riot Rhythm" has a syncopated, aerodynamic guitar riff and an addicting playground-stomping beat. When Krauss's charmingly straightforward vocal comes in, it's practically begging for a singalong. "Run the Heart" takes what sounds like an outtake from the Glee soundtrack and mixes it with a hip-hop groove; it proves to be completely irresistible. The anxious breaths that opens "Rachel" evolves into a hypnotic synth line; the song doesn't really go anywhere, but in its brief two-minute time frame it doesn't really need to.
None of these songs stretch longer than 4 minutes, which is good, because although Treats
is much more polished than those early Sleigh Bells demos, it is still defiantly noisy. The brevity keeps the fuzzy production from overpowering the songs, which are unpretentious and ridiculously catchy. I can't say with a straight face that Sleigh Bells are going to be huge - their sound is simply too abrasive to have the immediate appeal radioplay needs - but they prove here that they're the real deal, and they're not going away anytime soon.