Album Review: Sleigh Bells “Treats”

By Arthur Velez

Michigan Daily, U. Michigan via UWIRE

Rising from beneath the ever-saturated waters of today’s indie-band blogosphere is no easy task. Whether due to the sheer volume of music being written or the Internet’s murky conglomeration of media outlets, it seems that most bands are destined for the shadows before ever making that first MySpace page.

That being said, in the quest to be heard, it is certainly helpful to have an established artist on your side. So, having recently signed to M.I.A.’s own label, N.E.E.T. Recordings, noise-pop band Sleigh Bells has nowhere to go but up.

On the surface, the latest act to be vaulted from Brooklyn’s ever-teeming music scene seems destined only for its 15 minutes of fame. Comprised of guitarist/producer Derek Miller (formerly of Poison the Well) and pop vocalist Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells is an unlikely duo, but one that uses its potential shortcomings as creative fuel.

After the first listen, Treats, the band-of-the-moment’s debut album, is, in a word, volatile. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, this 11-track LP sets its blistering pace from the very first drop of the bass. Album opener and lead single “Tell ’Em” is bathed in distorted guitar. Its heavy bass drum hits pound so strongly that by the time Krauss’s cooing vocals enter, it feels as though she is a child in a thunderstorm, still too naïve to see the danger.

The band continues at this aggressive rate until doing a stylistic 180 with the summery “Rill Rill.” This both acts as a necessary interlude from the frenzied punk feel of the album and — for once — gives Krauss’s feathery vocals center stage. As she repeats the line “Have a heart” behind a lush sounds cape of affected guitars, it becomes obvious that Sleigh Bells doesn’t simply hide behind distortion, but can occasionally use it to create truly beautiful pop music.

This duo exemplifies how, musically, opposites sometimes do synthesize and go on to produce decent work. In terms of genre, these two hail from directional extremes, but Miller’s experimental songwriting brings their sound into cohesion. From ubiquitous handclaps, to the use of actual sleigh bells, Treats is an interesting juxtaposition of angular, hardcore guitar work, club-ready beats in the vein of M.I.A and bubble-gum vocals with a tinge of angst.

Though repetitious and at some points a bit too abrasive, Treats is for the most part a successful effort from a unique tandem. With all of the hype surrounding this album, it’s easy to get swept into the hipster bandwagon. But in reality, this is a solid effort from a fledgling band that might actually have staying power — not merely those 15 minutes of Internet stardom.

Read more here:
Copyright 2018 Michigan Daily