Review Summary: The best of the 'pretentious reinvention of pop' genre.
There are so many artists out there attempting to reinvent the pop genre in some unheard, cathartic, pretentious manner. MGMT add a large dose of '70s-era psychedelia on top of their awkward, bouncy pop. Crystal Castles take the electronic side of pop music and turn dance songs into massive, tweaked out horrorfests of scream and gut-wrenching emotion. Animal Collective turn this electronic music into obscure, minimalist structures of music that confuse and impress at the same time. It was only a matter of time until someone like Sleigh Bells came along, a duo turning dance music into a loud, brutal, annoying affair.
Their sound is very solidly drawing on their influences and past, sounding like a terrifying combination of Poison the Well (unsurprising, as the instrumentalist in the duo used to be Poison the Well's guitarist), Crystal Castles, and Britney Spears--that is, if Britney Spears absolutely hated her listeners. The very opening notes of the album throw us right into the bands trademark sound, hitting the listener with heavy, unconventional beats and loud, semi-melodic guitars. By the time Alexis Krauss' vocals come in, you should already be solidly uncomfortable with the music you are listening to. Her sweet, almost robotic deliver recalls the smooth sexuality of pop stars like Spears, while having a monotonous creepiness similar to that found in She Wants Revenge. And yet, this uncomfortable, loud mess comes out as not only catchy and fun, but truly impressive.
Every song brings a new element to the table, be it Kids' hip hop marching band beat, Riot Rhythm's slick synth/guitar combination, Rachel's smooth syncopated breathing intro, or the utter, metallic chaos that is Straight A's (most reminiscent of Crystal Castles, as I mentioned before). By the time the fourth track, Infinity Guitars, rolls around, it provides a welcome, slower breather from the first three tracks, until the massive railgun drum and guitar hit to the gut in the final half-minute. The way that such an awkward, minimalist song can suddenly explode with such a sudden, massive blast of feedback and drums is indicative of the best parts of this band, and is enough to send the listener reeling. It's one of the most impressive moments in modern pop music--but really, the same could be said of this whole album.
And it's not just how innovative or interesting Sleigh Bells are either: throughout this whole album, they display a marvelous sense of pacing. Right after the first three songs get a bit overwhelming, they take it down again for Infinity Guitars, but slap you in the face with the coda just before it gets boring. They then bring it back down for the mostly lyric-less, calming electronica of Run The Heart and Rachel, and then bring in an almost balladic heartfelt track like Rill Rill. Then, just in time to bring back their energy before they lose it, Sleigh Bells toss in the one-two punch of the drugged out, filthy dance tune Crown On The Ground, leading right into the massive, cathartic explosion of Straight A's. And they don't let up after that, following it up with the rhythmic vocal attack of A/B Machines, before finally letting the listener down softly with the beautiful, climactic finale of the title track.
Sleigh Bells' Treats
is an absolute masterpiece in the experimental pop genre, making some of the most interesting, abrasive, emotional, and impressive music in their scene. They have crafted an innovative album which is almost impossible to ignore, but really, who would want to? It's sad that this will likely receive no airplay, because this duo could very well be the future of pop music--and what an amazing future that would be.