Sleigh Bells – Treats (Album Review)

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Despite the name, there is very little that’s festive about Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells. A hardcore electro-pop duo, they exploded onto the indie scene last year with their volatile live shows and grimey, over-charged sound. It’s a difficult sound to categorise. Treats is electronic at its core, slow and beat-driven, but featuring more electric guitar than the last four Radiohead albums combined. Vocalist Alexis Krauss (not to be confused with bluegrass warbler Alison Krauss) even said herself in an interview with indie kingmaker Pitchfork: “we still have yet to figure out our genre because every time we describe it, it just sounds so shitty”. Whatever it’s called, it’s a style that has attracted some powerful input, most notably from MIA, who signed the group to her N.E.E.T. Recordings label, a collaboration that led Sleigh Bells producer Derek E. Miller getting a chance to score a credit on the Sri-Lankan born singer’s Maya earlier this year.

The MIA influence is apparent from opening track Tell ‘Em, released as a single last April. Angry, invasive beats underpin Krauss’s wail of “did you know you could make me scream?” Tell ‘Em serves to ease the listener into Kids, who’s slow and insistent rhythm patters draw parallels with the Major Lazer club classic Pon de Floor from last year. By the time the album reaches Riot Rhythm, the big, distorted beats begin to grate, perhaps unfairly obscuring more interesting elements of the riotous production, and there’s not let up on Infinitiy Guitars, by far the catchiest of this set. Released as a single earlier this month, the duo have also recently completed a video for the track, featuring Krauss prowling down a street brandishing a baseball bat in front of burning guitars and a pitbull. Run the Heart continues with the pounding half-time rhythms, but finds Krauss in a more melodic mood, with a fairly delicate vocal that surprisingly doesn’t have to do battle with another big beat production. Rachel is a low point, relentlessly persistent sawtooth synths fail to develop, and the track can only be considered as a concept that has unfortunately failed to hit the mark. Its perhaps appropriate then that Rill Rill should follow, positioning itself as an oasis in the middle of the chaos of Treats. An uncharacteristically restrained and unfunky Funkadelic sample is looped to good effect by Miller, and Krauss is able to provide glimpses of her simple but affecting melody writing. A definite standout track. Crown on the Ground is back to business however, an ear-splitting riff and crashing beats bringing the noise. Straight As is a 3 minutes blast of digital punk, complete with feedback drenched outro, before A/B Machines returns to the punchy, shouted choruses of earlier tracks, a pastiches of The Ting Tings at their most apathetic. The title track closer slows things down even further, chopping up some more distorted guitar and drums, before grinding to an unsatisfying halt. The single dynamic of this album (loud) may annoy at times, but it’s a refreshing response to the hundreds of chilwave/dream pop bands that are dominating and saturating indie music currently, and its total running time of 32 minutes means it doesn’t entirely outstay its welcome…

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