Album Reviews: Sleigh Bells, “TREATS” (2010)

I’m not sure when I stumbled upon Sleigh Bells, though I know I first heard them while visiting someone’s blog.  Usually, I automatically mute my laptop when a blog has an automatic playlist enabled, but I remember being captivated by the band’s unique sound.  The clashing guitar, heavy drums and crashing synthesizers instantly attracted me and I remember buying their CD just based on the one song I heard.

Sleigh Bells is a duo consisting of guitarist, Derek Miller (who also serves as the album’s producer) and singer, Alexis Krauss.  The New York-based band have been releasing music underground since 2008, but 2010 saw the release of their debut album, Treats. Most of the album is made up of the aforementioned guitars, drums, and synthesizers, but the band’s busy sound actually translates into a terribly fun and upbeat album.

From the loud, guitar/synth heavy opening of Tell ‘Em you can figure out that this will be an energetic album.  Hand claps, snaps and a cacophony of sounds round out the busy production on the track, subsiding only during the verses to allow room for Krauss’ high-pitched, girlish vocals.

The album’s biggest standout appears next with Kids.  Again, it’s the bass-heavy production (this time, made up of synth, electric guitar and drumming) that really makes this song so great.  The fast-paced, frenzied sound makes for perfect music to turn up full-blast on your iPod.  

Songs like Riot Rhythm, Infinity Guitars and A/B Machines will let you know how well your speakers handle heavy bass; all of the tracks feature banging drums, cymbals and lots of screeching electric guitar.  I always imagine tracks like these being played at a rave or epic house party: they songs sound like the kind of music you’d hear on a dance floor of sweaty, drunk people writhing around.  It also sounds like the kind of party I want to be part of (except, perhaps, not as drunk as the others and not nearly as sweaty).

Run The Heart begins with some quiet harmonizing, and is probably the only song on the album that for any time just features Krauss’ vocals without any backing production.  Of course, it only takes a few seconds for the synth line to drop, but this is probably the mellowest track on the album.  The stuttering synth that plays in Rachel is a unique sound to the album, and this song is another one that comes off being a bit more laid back than some of the other tracks on the disc.  The guitar and synth are pretty understated in comparison to the other songs, and Krauss’ voice sounds lovely as it floats in and out on the verses.

Sleigh Bells 03 (6968828448)

Rill Rill has the most traditional rock sound of any tracks on the album.  Most of the music is made up of simplistic guitar, and the absence of electronic effects is instantly noticeable.  Krauss and Miller handle the musical change of pace nicely, and the breezy melody and carefree refrain (“So this is it then?/You’re here to win friend/Click click saddle up see you on the moon then/And all alone friend/Pick up their phones then/Ring ring call them up/Tell them about the new trends/Have a heart…”) combine to make another standout track on the disc.

The tempo is picked right back up with Crown On The Ground.  Miller plays a piercing guitar riff to open the track before more of the deafening drumming we’ve grown accustomed to are introduced.  By the chorus, the tempo has picked up significantly and the fierce riff has been added in with the drums, creating another perfect party anthem. The raucousness continues with Straight A’s, another track where Miller’s guitar skills are at play.  He produces a stellar guitar solo at the beginning of the track that would probably fit in perfectly fine on a metal album, while Krauss does some heavy metal-type screaming during the verses.

The title-track and album’s closer, Treats, is another ear-piercing bass track, though it starts off quietly enough.  Krauss and Miller are excellent at a good build up and they execute it perfectly here; spending the first few minutes of the song with some bouncy synthesizer before laying down a heavy drum loop.  The beat here sounds like something that’d you’d hear on a hip-hop/rap album, but Krauss’ soprano voice throws that association off once you hear her sing during the chorus.

At only eleven tracks, Treats is a short album, but it’s a cohesive and easy listen.  This is one of those few albums that can be listened to from start to finish, particularly if you’re looking for some exciting background music (I tend to play it when I’m heading to work and need a bit of an energy boost).  Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss are an energetic and fun duo, and this album is the perfect pick me up for any bad day.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Tell ‘Em
2. Kids
3. Riot Rhythm
4. Infinity Guitars
5. Run the Heart
6. Rachel
7. Rill Rill
8. Crown On The Ground
9. Straight A’s
10. A/B Machines
11. Treats


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