Album Review: Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals

The Breakdown

Solid and enjoyable, Sleigh Bells third album sees the band add a little more pop into the noise mix
Lucky Number, Mom + Pop

Far from being bitter rivals, Sleigh Bells third album actually shows they may be working towards more equality. The Brooklyn duo, singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller met when he served her and her mother at a restaurant. According to legend (admittedly not the most famous of legends, but a legend none the less) Miller casually mentioned he was looking for a female voice for a musical project, and Krauss’ Mother immediately volunteered her.

What followed was a colossal clash of styles, Krauss angelic, disco pop vocals over Millers industrial punk-noise backings. It was defined to brilliant effect on their lauded debut album, Treats, a collection of pop songs accompanied by brutal synths and noisy guitars. A cleaner sound didn’t alter the core sound of the band on follow up Reign Of Terror, it just gave it a sheen that if anything accentuated it further.

So whats changed in Bitter Rivals, the bands third studio album in as many years? Rumours have abounded that Krauss has been more involved in the songwriting process, and certainly her voice seems to have matured, or at least carries some more weight, both musically and creatively as it happens.

That move towards equality, or at a leaning towards the pop of Krauss rather than the noise of Miller, can be heard straight away on the opening title-track, complete with finger clicks and (gulp) an acoustic guitar. It doesn’t last for long, these rave/industrial keyboards taking over, and weight of the electric guitar soon becomes apparent. ‘You are my bitter rival’ coo’s Krauss ‘but I need you for survival’. Quite.

But then it creeps in, again and again. On 24 its delicious pop, shawn of most of the guitars, instead weaving lines of synths give it a warmer, sunnier feel. And To hell with you, has these little c86 guitar figures, with only the booming of the synths and bass drum disguising a saccharine little pop melody. Of course there are some more aggressive moments on the record, Bitter Rivals holds (apart from perhaps the animal noises) a fair amount of bite although it also features Krauss at her sultry best, wrapping the noise around her little finer, but on Sugarcane she comes off second best to these fantastically searing background.

The stop start of Young Legends smacks of R’n’B, Hip Hop beats even, and there’s a certain Go! Team something about You don’t get me twice. For their third record in three years, no-one can argue with their rate of output, Sleigh Bells have made a record that sounds like they took their time over, deciding what they wanted.

As for equality, maybe they’ve just about got it right. More pop, just about the same amount of noise. Maybe its the healthy competition of being bitter rivals thats driving them on. If it is, lets hope it continues for a good while longer.

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