May 18, 2010
Sleigh Bells | Treats
2010 | Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T. Recordings
The internet hype-cycle can be a fickle thing. Either you live up to the acclaim like The Strokes did back in 2001, or you don’t and get completely screwed over like the Black Kids a few years ago, or you just find yourself perpetually trapped in the blogosphere like, well, most bands. It’s been less than a year since Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells found themselves in this world after playing a handful of breakout shows at last year’s CMJ and releasing a five-song demo that seemed to make its way to every corner of the internet. Throw in two national tours opening for Major Lazer and then Yeasayer, and signing to M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. Recordings, and the buzz surrounding the group’s debut, Treats, grew to a fever pitch—not to mention the fact that before it’s online release on May 11, the album had miraculously not even leaked.
Treats is loud and relentless—thirty-two minutes of non-stop, in-your-face, cranked-to-11, ear-drum-shattering noise pop. Derek Miller’s guitar screams wildly over hammering 808 beats and claps, creating a hurricane of sound that provides the perfect foil for Alexis Krauss’ blissed-out voice that’s still got just the right amount of bite. And while much of the charm on Sleigh Bells’ demo was the bedroom-production values, getting into a studio has been far from detrimental. As producer, Miller has given the re-recordings of demo songs new life: “Kids” (formerly “Beach Girls”) is tighter and more powerful, its once drawn-out synths now staccato punches; and “Infinity Guitars” retains its Spartan, lo-fi glory until the last forty-seconds when the volume gets kicked up a few notches more, ending in a pounding whirlwind of noise and distortion.
What makes Treats such a wonderful record though, is Sleigh Bells’ ability to push the limits of what pop can be. The entire record is comprised of melodies that sound like they were lifted straight from the Top 40 charts; but Sleigh Bells have turned what could have easily been monotonous and droning into something exciting and explosive. Album opener and first single “Tell ‘Em” sounds like a high school pep-rally on steroids—“You can do your best today / You can do your best today” Krauss encourages us sweetly just before Miller engulfs us in an energizing outro of screeching guitars and crunching drums, snaps and handclaps. “Riot Rhythm” revels in the same pulsating atmosphere, while “A/B Machines” constantly swells from a Dick Dale surf guitar into a raging electro chorus—an unexpected shriek from Krauss towards the end certainly doesn’t hurt.
Demo highlight “Crown On The Ground” is just as memorable and bone rattling (only this time with much cleaner vocals) and after each listen continues to prove that while at its core Sleigh Bells’ music is pure pop, the group has still managed to create a sound that’s incredibly distinct and unlike anything else out there. There’s only one real break throughout Treats: “Rill Rill” (formerly “Ring Ring”), the clearest, cleanest, and undoubtedly one of the most infectious songs on Treats that’s based around a grooving Funkadelic sample and echoes with slightly tarnished pianos and church bells.
The time between Sleigh Bells’ arrival on the scene and the release of Treats is a pretty stunning seven months. But in that time, Krauss and Miller have managed to put together an album that makes it sound like they’ve been working together for years. Sleigh Bells makes music that demands attention, and Treats is a brilliant record filled with smart, catchy, and unique pop songs designed to blow out your speakers and your eardrums. So of course the question is, Did Sleigh Bells live up to the hype? Honestly, it is a pretty stupid one, but at this point it seems almost unavoidable. So here’s the short answer: Yes.