Wednesday, March 20

Soundbite: Sleigh Bells


A summer romance of an album if there ever was one ““ if Sleigh Bells seems cheap and easy, it’s because the duo is good at pretending to be. How else do you squeeze a jam-packed Coachella crowd out of a few demos and one single? The only thing louder than the Vampire Weekend-worthy overnight hype surrounding the unlikely pair of post-hardcore rock guitarist Derek E. Miller and teen-pop singer Alexis Krauss was their first single itself.

“Crown on the Ground” took music’s three greatest pleasure principles ““ dance beats, stadium guitars and bubblegum pop vocals ““ and intertwined them to deliver something more accessible and grabbing than anything on Top 40 radio. Indie rock had never before felt so deliberate.

So it was nice of the two to cut through the pretense on their debut album and deliver the goods: hook, after hook, after hook. And boy, do these two know hooks. The first four tracks get straight to the point: heavy guitars, drilling sound effects, syncopated snaps and claps, effervescent vocals and yes, sleigh bells that gel all too well and somehow manage to be both club- and pit-worthy. It takes the album opener, “Tell ‘Em,” about six seconds to become the most ear-catching song in a while, and luckily the tracks that follow never lose momentum.

“Run the Heart” does Blondie’s “Rapture” sans the rapping and wordiness. And who needs words when Krauss’s “ooh” and “ahh” coos are ear candy enough? Even though Sleigh’s vocal half acts to tie up the loose ends of Miller’s organized chaos, the lyrics are most often vague if not incomprehensible. Anyone care to tell me what “Got my A machines on the table, got by B machines in the drawer” means? Not that it matters. “A/B Machines” still sounds like nothing and everything in dance-rock music for the past five years all rolled into one. It’s so seamlessly complex it may just fly over your head the first time.

Not since The Knife has indie music felt so uncharacteristically catchy and danceable. That’s because Sleigh Bells knows how to emphasize both the “noise” and the “pop” in noise pop.

Clocking in at only 32 minutes, there isn’t a single down moment on “Treats.” Because Sleigh Bells’ music demands so much decibel tolerance from your ear drums, it’s better that they leave out any of the less-than-excellent ideas. The album relaxes only once in the Bob Dylan-nodding “Rill Rill,” highlighting acoustics and melodies and hinting at the prospect of the duo having even more tricks in store for the future, which is smart because, like all summer romances, this album could very well lose its thrill once fall rolls around.

But I could be wrong. “Crown on the Ground” moves just as fast as it did six months ago, giving the rest of “Treats” high prospects of possessing substance over style. Whether the wheels fall off of this one or not won’t matter so long as you enjoy the ride.

““ Alex Wolf

E-mail Wolf at [email protected]

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