Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Album: Sleigh Bells - Treats

Treats (Sleigh Bells)
Album: Treats
Mom & Pop, 2010
Rating: ********* (9/10)

What a week for new music! In case you were in a coma during CMJ last fall, Sleigh Bells are a LOUD electronic duo that were the surprise stars of the festival. Their debut album is finally out (today) and it definitely lives up to the hype.

Now, I spend a lot of time lamenting the lack of balls in indie music. And Treats, from the first note, seems to agree. "Tell Em" starts out with explosive hits and nasty, distortion-laden guitar. Alexis Krauss tops the rage with a surprisingly sweet, quick melody, even while amplifiers around her explode.

"Kids" follows, a jolting, static-thick beat and peeling guitars broken by girlish monologues about sunglasses and vacation. "Riot Rhythm" runs along similar lines, while "Infinity Guitars" starts with a rock'n'roll guitar hook and finds vocals more shouted than sung (though still with a certain girlishness) over a bare-bones, slappy beat. It sounds like the Kills - well, if the Kills did a whole lot of crack and then turned their amps up way past eleven. Then, two minutes in, the song suddenly lurches into overdrive with the loudest guitars this side of A Place to Bury Strangers, a sheer atom bomb of sound.

The next few tracks don't quite live up to the strong starters, but hold out to "Rill Rill." A sampled guitar and piano over deep, deliberate beats support Krauss's finest moment on the album. By far the most melodic and, well, prettiest track on the album, "Rill Rill" has the potential to be a left-field hit. The open arrangement allows the vocals to shine and prove that they need no sonic tricks to prop them up.

After the song's closing chime, the in-your-face roar of the rest of the album is back. "Crown on the Ground" opens with sneering guitar, then BAM, a whomping beat with hip-hop smarts threatens to bust your speakers entirely. Here again, Krauss's melody is nothing short of lovely, standing as always in juxtaposition to the ruthless instrumentals. "Straight As" comes on even stronger, with a twisting minor-key guitar riff that borders on metal, switching between gritty crunch and a sheer wave of distortion.

The album ends a little weak on a title track that really doesn't live up to its name. But at this point, if you're not begging for mercy, you don't have your stereo loud enough. Sleigh Bells are here to cause as much hearing damage as possible and I have to say, it's worth it.

But aside from competing with A Place to Bury Strangers and My Bloody Valentine for the Loudest Band Award, Sleigh Bells present something totally fresh. Yes, there are precursors to their sound - Germany's EC8OR comes close - but in the constant contrast between the vocals and the instrumentals, in the strange annihilation of the border between guitar rock and electronica, in the particularities of the distorted, trashed production, Sleigh Bells have got something that's entirely their own. It's about fucking time.


No comments: