Thursday, May 13, 2010

Album Review: Sleigh Bells, Treats

Sleigh Bells
8.3 Broken Ipod Headphones out of 10 Broken Ipod Headphones

I was sitting in my apartment in Edinburgh last October when I first saw Sleigh Bells as Stereogum’s artist to watch. Upon hearing ‘Crown on the Ground,’ I thought two things:

1)      What is this song that just disfigured my feeble HP speakers beyond the point of recognition?
2)      Thank you.

It seems like ever since then, Sleigh Bells had just been buzzing and buzzing (or ringing, I suppose). Perhaps even more so at Georgetown as we gave our best shot at bringing them to Bulldog Alley in the spring, only to find they were just out of our reach. What was especially weird about all this buzz though, was that we had all only heard four songs on their Myspace. There was no EP, there was just this rumor of a soon-to-be album. So, when it dropped nearly seven months later, we were all expecting a debut of Snoop Dogg proportions

I won’t go too far into what everyone knows: This shit is raw, and all of its worth comes from its unbridledness. I’ll tell you what’s most impressive about this album, though. You know that space in between the X-axis and an asymptotal line as X approaches infinity? That’s where this album exists.

I mean that Derek Miller (Guitars, Beats, Attitude) and Alexis Krauss (Vox, Rage) have carved out the tiniest of spaces for themselves to create music in, but what is amazing is that in this tiny space they have found so much room to play. They have managed to craft and sculpt their sound so accurately that in a 32 minute album of epic noise, they’ve injected enough intricacies, either with her saccharine sweet vocals or his skin searing riffs, to keep you interested the whole time.

Sleigh Bells began as a bedroom project, and like a Northern English town, its charm came from its grit. Stepping into a studio can be a place of many temptations for talented musicians. They may be too easily attracted to the tools that can give them a polished sound like they had never heard before, and in turn lose some of the rawness that gave them appeal in the first place (see: Dr. Dog’s Fate). But, Sleigh Bells showed enough restraint to avoid this, and managed somehow to make some of their demos even grittier, like “Infinity Guitars,” where a quiet one second lull makes you think you can relax your ear muscles just before you’re assaulted with a million decibels of distorted low end guitar.

The one exception is “Rill Rill,” formerly titled “Ring Ring.” It’s not a make or break song, but it would have been a nice place in the album to let us catch our breath. It functioned before as a little peak into their lives, “Look we’re normal too. We think about braces.” But instead, they didn’t commit to making it either as explosive as the other tracks, or as a pleasant interlude, and ended up overproducing the song with some distracting, rumbling synths. 

Despite it’s volume, don’t mistake Treats for being an under-thought album. While I struggle to find any meaning in, “A/B Machines,” Krauss does seem to import some of her experiences as a grade school teacher with songs like, “Kids,” and “Straight A’s.” Though, I fear for any grade-schooler that has to listen to this album during arts and crafts.

Sleigh Bells "A/B Machines" LIVE at Le Poisson Rouge NYC from AbzPunkPhoto on Vimeo.

Stream Treats on NPR this week only

--Igor German


fiona said...

yeah i thought the exact same thing about "ring ring" // "Rill Rill"--thought i was kewl and individual for doing so but clearly i am neither
but really, WHY did they do it? the demo/original is a LOT more gr00vy. let's try to get them for Why Go To Bed Fest 2011, they're apparently too good to be true live (or so they say)

also this guy says they're limp bizkit with a cute girl singer. huh...

Caroline said...

woweeee i agree with the limp bizkit comparison. i loved "ring ring" because it was so palatable, but the reason i don't love the rest of sleigh bells' catalog is mostly because it makes ME feel old and uncool with how little tolerance i have for the noise level. GRANDMA. that being said, i'd never let my kids go to kindergarten class with her

emily said...

fiona, thank you for letting me not be the only person going around saying "BUT OMG THE DEMO WAS BETTER," because, well, not only is it kind of true for a lot of the tracks, but i always feel like those obnoxious people who say things like: "their older stuff was better."

(even though that's sometimes true as well OKAY)

igs said...

what do you mean the only one? I said it too!

fiona said...

fine we ALL HAVE MIND LINKS, isn't that the scariest thing you've ever heard of? or we're just unoriginal. or we're all the best. take your pick...