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|1. Can You Get To That|
|2. Tell 'Em|
|4. Riot Rhythm|
|5. Infinity Guitars|
|6. Run The Heart|
|8. Rill Rill|
|9. Crown On The Ground|
|10. Straight A's|
|11. A/B Machines|
2010 debut album from the Brooklyn Noise-Rock duo consisting of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller. This highly anticipated album is a speaker-imploding, mind-melting mix of noize and melody with the accent on the former. Some say that this is the future of Rock 'n' Roll. Some say that this is the end of Rock 'n' Roll. Either way, it's Rock 'n' Roll!
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As for the music Sleigh Bells elephantine beats don't just hammer the damn things could pile drive concrete supports into the foundations for skyscrapers. Their primitive guitar fuzz is wickedly distorted and married to the simplest of pop melodies. Krauss's ever so sweet voice provides tranquillity amongst this cacophony. Thereby this irresistible mix combines with room-shaking production and big guitars and is the reason why so many people are salivating over this album on the blogosphere.
When I first played the opener "Tell em" on my car stereo it was so bloody loud I swerved to miss a passing cyclist. It is a full blown aural assault, the musical equivalent of a punch in the face and one of the quieter songs on the album. It may just be 2010's musical counterpart to last years "My Girls" by Animal Collective. In terms of what follows there is no let up or escape. "Riot Rhythm" has drums which pound and Millers guitar introduces a razor like cutting riff. "Infinity guitars" sounds like a cross between the Beastie boys and Japandroids. "Run the heart" is Abba for the Twitter generation. It is a staccato composition punctuated by bubbling noises, shimmering synths and the dreamlike vocal of Krauss. Then there is the Phil Spectorish "Rill Rill" formerly "Ring Ring" from their demo's which is a charming confection of a pop song that is a temporary if welcome relief from Miller frankly going mental. His return however comes back with all the force of a wayward Katyusha missile on "Crown on the Ground" which sounds like the treble button has broken and someone has sucked the bass out. Your graphic equalizer is I am afraid onto a hiding to nothing but it works brilliantly and is actually quite sweet in comparison to the 90 second riff monster "Straight A's" that follows which could be Husker Du having a bad soundcheck. "A B Machines" is a surf guitar hip hop mash up (I kid you not) with Krauss repeating a two line lyric throughout. Finally the title track sounds like Mastadon making a bid for the charts with a girl singer.
There will be many of you wonderful people on Amazon who will state that "you don't get this", that "you've heard it all before" or will use that ubiquitous insult that it is the "king's new clothes". Even more will complain that the level of distortion on the album (at Spinal Tap "11") is giving your speakers a workload which they neither desire or can cope with and that perhaps "Treats" should come with complimentary Paracetamol. Yet there are on occasions when certain albums for just a very elusive moment on the space time continuum appear to make all other game players sound a bit wrought and tired. Sleigh Bells new album "Treats" falls into that category and will nudge popular music into different directions.
Granted "Treats" is so bound for mainstream success and overexposure that you sense that a brief romance with this band may be the extent of your involvement, but so what it will be fun while it lasts. Thus we have an album that is very loud, trashy, and disposable and pulled off with the sort of brazen audacity that would find the state police visiting in the dark of night in a less tolerant society. "Treats" describes itself, get it on Amazon MP3 download now and be prepared for a complete sensory overload.
Derek Miller's hardcore roots are evident here, as is Alexis Krauss' previous work in a girl group. The two seem destined to clash, but defy the cynics and become one of the most interesting new acts this year.
From the beginning track, "Tell 'Em," I was hooked on the booming bass, storming guitar and Alexis' beautiful voice. The following track, "Kids," is one of the primary tracks that draws comparisons to late 90's rap. "Riot Rhythm" follows the first track's sound closely, and uses some addictive guitar riffs at that. "Infinity Guitars" is among one of the harsher tracks on the album, and also seems slightly out of place, but the change of pace is definitely appreciated. "Run the Heart" reminds me again of "Kids" in it's use of rap synth and beats.
"Straight A's" is the loudest track on the album. Without doubt. It brings a whole new meaning to loud, and makes the music seem larger than life. It's followed up with "A/B Machines," a simple 2 line song that will probably become some sort of dancehall remix favorite. It will also immediately remind some of MIA with the vocal style.
The namesake of the album, "Treats," is an interesting culmination for the album, and seems like an appropriate closer. It starts off by sounding like a Smiths song, then returns to form. I was happy that it didn't end on a poor note; too many albums as of late have and it just seems disappointing when an otherwise strong album leaves off weakly.
What is most obvious and interesting is the shear noise and force that Alexis' often crystal, proper voice sings through; Pitchfork compared it to a tempest that she seems accustomed to and has no problem singing over. I agree completely; they pull off this dynamic over most of the album, but give the listener a few moments of rest. A couple of instances of this are in the tracks, "Rachel" and "Rill Rill," both of which slow down the album appropriately for the coming storm of the second half of the album.
Each consecutive listen of the album has me more excited for the possibilities and future of Sleigh Bells. At the same time, I'm slightly worried they may become "the new thing" and get played to death. Their sound may wear thin, or become a gimmick. Also, (and this has been stated by many) the band will polarize listeners. It's enough pop to draw a lot of otherwise Top-40 only listeners, but some will find it too loud and aggressive.
For now though, I'm going to listen to and enjoy the album. I suggest you do to.
I can understand why some people reject this music out of hand. It's a little gimmicky, maybe a bit contrived . . . but ya know what? I couldn't care less about that. This album is super pumped up and fun to listen to. It's got a heavy electronic sound with booming rock beats and electronic drums contrasted with airy, high-pitched vocals. The drums are intentionally distorted, sounding like they were overloading speakers with the volume turned up to 11 (they aren't too loud on the album though). Alexis Krauss has that sexy little girl thing going on in spades. She sounds quite juvenile - and that's intentional. These musicians are indeed young and this record comes from an unapologetically youthful place. Her vocals sound a bit like she's cheerleading at times. You can dance to this music, and while it might seem overly repetitive to some, a good listen reveals plenty of melody. The first four or five songs may give the impression that they've hit on one particular formula and they're sticking to it, but keep listening and you'll hear TREATS trying different approaches. Sleigh Bells maintain a basic template of sound throughout the album but there's actually a fair amount of diversity here. People who like the "Rill Rill" single getting airplay these days should be aware that the rest of the album is quite different from that particular track. TREATS incorporates divergent elements and manages to come up with its own unique sound.
Breakdown! (notes and impressions of each song) -
"Tell 'Em" - anthemic guitar, booming bass drums, finger snaps, ethereal rap/singing and distorted shards of guitar...."Did you do your best today?" ****1/2
"Kids" - infectious, loopy rhythm - "Oh, oh, oh..." - with actual sleigh bells (or something that sounds like em!). Similar sound to the first track, interspersed with dialog from real kids. ****
"Riot Rhythm" - same sound - loud drums with 80's-style "drum claps," squirmy synth touches, cheerleader chants. ***3/4
"Infinity Guitars" - more drum claps, "uh,uh, uhs," and a simple guitar figure - more of the same, catchy as hell. ****
"Run The Heart" - While it's true that the album maintains a distinctive sound throughout, things begin to change starting with this song. Intersperses a spacey synth pattern with severely distorted drums and helicopter guitars. "I wanna know what's good for you..." Very sexy! ****3/4
"Rachel" - taking a break from the massive drums, this track is dominated by some awesomely corrosive synths. Sweetly sung. Moody, evocative. ****1/2
"Rill Rill" - presumably called "Rill Rill" since there's already an ABBA song named "Ring Ring," this tune is a complete left turn. It's a gorgeous pop song that gently swings with piano, orchestral bells and some sweet acoustic guitar. The big drums are back, but they're much more laid back. "Have a heart, have a heart/ Sixteen six six six and I fell apart..." A great summer song, I loved hearing it on alt-rock radio over the past few months. *****
"Crown On The Ground" - The intensity level gets cranked up to overload once again - a huge heavily distorted sound fills the speakers and hits some particularly compelling chord changes. This is their trademark sound - crazy-catchy, relentless, mind-blowing. *****
"Straight A's" - a strange, noisy little diversion with heavy metal-ish guitars and screamed vocals. Very cool. ****
"A/B Machines" - repetitive, almost hypnotic, makes use of some Duane Eddy-ish guitars and more "elevator-going-up" effects. Kicks ass! ****1/4
"Treats" - The final track has an ominous sound, beginning with a guitar loaded with heavy tremolo reminiscent of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" before lumbering drums and heavy Black Sabbath guitars kick in. As always, Alexis' airy vocals stand in stark contrast to the swirling musical miasma which takes the listener to some truly bizarre places. *****
"Treats" (11 tracks; 32 min.) is the band's debut album. It starts off with a blazing "Tell'Em" and pretty much never lets up after that. The first half of the album are all super short songs (less than 3 min.), and before you know what hits you, the band is on to the next track already. "Kids" is my favorite track of those. The second half of the album brings slight longer songs, but the sound of the songs is pretty much the same: loud and crunched. Either you're gonna like it, or you don't. I happen to like it quite a bit. At 32 min., the album zooms by in no time.
I happen to catch Sleigh Bells live last month when they opened for LCD Soundsystem. Bringing a blazing 35 min. set, I think they played pretty much all songs from the album. And boy, was it ever loud. I mean, REALLY loud, which unfortunately drowned out Alexis' vocals at times. But a great opener for LCD. Meanwhile "Treats" is an attention-grabbing debut album.