In late 2009 a new sound was released unto the world in the form of Sleigh Bells, a two person noise pop band from Brooklyn. The duo consists of Derek Miller, of post-hardcore band Poison The Well, and Alexis Krauss, a school teacher with a teen pop past. The band’s first release, a self-titled EP, garnered attention from music lovers everywhere with its confident, aggressive, and very loud sound. Cut to four years and two albums later Sleigh Bells return with Bitter Rivals, an album that can easily be considered their most accomplished and best work yet.
The album starts off on a particular high note with the titular track “Bitter Rivals”. The song begins with hums, snaps, and an acoustic guitar before smacking the listener across the face with a heavy riff and Krauss aggressive screaming of the lyrics. It’s one of the highlights of the whole album. It’s also of note to point out that with the first track the production is a lot cleaner than their past releases. That doesn’t mean this album is any softer though. Oh no, this is still an album to crank up to 11 while driving with your windows down on the freeway in the middle of the night. It’s still very much a Sleigh Bells album.
The track “Sing Like A Wire” completely embodies everything Sleigh Bells is aiming for on this album, and their sound as a whole. It’s filled with 80’s nostalgia in the verses, which substitute guitar for keyboard and contain Krauss’s best vocal performance on the album. Then the chorus kicks in and it’s basically nothing but a beat, loud guitar, and Alexis screaming “Sing Like A Wire”. The track is the best song on the album and therefore one of the best they’ve ever done. Personally, I’ve never been to one of their live shows, but I can only imagine it’s one that makes the crowd go crazy.
With every new record it’s important for a band to grow and on Bitter Rivals the growth comes in the form of Krauss’s vocals. Here she gives it her all: singing, screeching, yelling, and even talking the lyrics. Sometimes all of the above on one track. “Minnie” is a fine example of this as she playfully sings the pre-chorus, which is basically a tongue twister, before belting out the chorus over Miller’s loud playing and the accompanying beat. She’s completely become her own instead of background noise to go along with the rest of the music.
The lyrics are still as nonsensical as ever. There’s almost a scrap-booking quality to them. It seems as though they copy and paste random quotes, sayings, and lyrics from bubblegum pop songs to form the words to their songs. This isn’t necessarily a negative mind you, but it can be quite distracting at times. For example the track “Tiger Kit” literally ends with “Make like a banana and split”. I understand that they are trying to go with a playful attitude, but it mostly just comes off as awkward.
Sleigh Bells are one of the best artist the noise pop genre has to offer and seeing them grow so much over such a small amount of time is completely amazing. Though with growth comes missteps and awkward phases. The track “Tiger Kit” feels like it’s going for too much and in the end achieves very little, but it still doesn’t bring down Bitter Rivals as a whole. This is still a complete album filled with wonderful high energy tracks that will keep the listener wanting more. It’s one of the year’s best. – David Long
[author ]David Long lives in North Carolina and is probably younger than you. He apologizes for his terrible spelling. [/author]