Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Sleigh Bells, "Treats"

treatsTreats, the debut album by the Brooklyn-slash-Florida duo Sleigh Bells that is available for you to purchase today, vaulted to "one of my favorite albums of the year" status pretty much immediately after it landed in my iTunes. "What does it sound like?," people ask me when I repeat that statement to them, and it is actually a question that I have had a devil of a time answering. So let me start off by saying this: The album bows with a guitar sound that resembles a cross between the "pew pew!" that comes out of one's mouth when one is play-firing a finger-gun and a skyscraper-sized, earth-destroying laser — and from there, it only gets bigger, and more fun, and more like a sugar rush that feels much shorter than its 32 minutes.

One of the things that I bemoaned about "indie" for so long was its overly mannered nature — bands that would garner accolades from critics seemed to me like music made for droning one's life away in a vaguely creative cubicle farm, full of beautiful, correctly executed moments that had zero resonance except to serve as placeholders until the next batch of aesthetes came along. Sleigh Bells feels like it was created as a direct protest against this type of music — the songs that spill out of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss are vital and fun, maxing speakers' volume in a bone-shaking way that can't help but transfer outward to the rest of one's person.

It's probably also worth noting that many of the loudest songs on this record bear more than a passing sonic resemblance to the scrapey guitars and hyperloud posturing of metal. In a time when women all over pop have been relegated to roles that are predicated on their hewing to gender roles as much as possible, it's especially gratifying to see Krauss just going for it rock-style, banging her head in concert and howling along with the squealing guitars. Here's a demo version of "Crown On The Ground," which, depending on my mood, can remind me of a blown-out take on George Michael's "Faith" or an updated-for-2010 remix of those early-'00s dancehall songs that had a riddim based on the Cure's "Close To Me."

The album does have its quieter moments: "Rill Rill," which is built around a Funkadelic sample, seems poised to be the group's crossover hit — it's all loose-limbed guitars, with Krauss repeating the phrase "have a heart" over in such a way that I can see it quoted by many a teenage Tumblrer. But I also love the similarly dreamy "Rachel," which feels like a lost experiment by My Bloody Valentine.

But for the most part, the album is loud, and aggressive, and fun. When I talk to people about Sleigh Bells, it's interesting to see what points of comparison come up: Krauss' cheery voice lends comparisons to pop; the blown-out sonics cause people to reach back to '90s techno. While perusing Twitter earlier I saw comparisons to Ludacris, Dirty Projectors, and T. Rex. Treats is probably going to be a very polarizing record, but after an era where inoffensive blandness ruled the roost, I do not think that's a bad thing at all.

(Another notable thing about Treats: It did not leak onto the Internet before its release date, which is a huge feat for a band that appeals to the "people with computers" demographic. How this happened I have no idea, but I suspect people from labels of all stripe are asking around about this topic. You can listen to it at NPR's Web site. The duo is also on MySpace.)

34 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

I love Sleigh Bells' blown out bass. It sounds like it's pouring from all the speakers in a 20-vehicle car pile up.

Thanks for the pointer!

TennisCourtOaf (#4,871)

Sleigh Bells are dope (although live they can wear out after about 30 mins — although that too could be a protest against the "cubicle farm" Animal Collective expansiveness you so wonderfully enunciate). And that Rachel track is a straight-up Lush tribute. Also, maybe "pzew pzew"?

TennisCourtOaf (#4,871)

**although, although …

hortense (#2,780)

Yes. Definite shades of Miki/Emma in that one.

Dave Bry (#422)

"A skyscraper-sized, earth-destroying laser?"

Two please.

Matthew Perpetua (#2,418)

I think the leaking issue mostly came down to the fact that they didn't have a final mastered copy of this album until this time last week. They sent out some watermarked streams, and people behaved. So I guess more people should digitally release their album within a week of having it mastered?

Chewie (#2,980)

Maura's right – the album sounds like a wide range of stuff. I hear Lil Wayne, the Ronettes, Ratatat, MIA (no surprise there), hair metal and Katamari's theme music. Love it so much. I've already listened to "Tell 'Em" forty times in the last two weeks.

Multiphasic (#411)

So is M.I.A. widely considered the popularizer of the "dripping with contempt" style of lady-rapping?

Joe Gallagher (#3,502)

Am I the only one that finds this band like, way too grating for comfortable listening? "Crown on the Ground" is right up there with "Boom Boom Pow" on my list of songs that make me want to rip my ears off.

deepomega (#1,720)

I put 'em on the list of artists that I really can't hold against anyone! I mean it's so grungy bass-choppy etc. etc. that I'm amazed I myself like them. Acquired taste maybe?

Miles Klee (#3,657)

i mean they are basically a band whose primary influence is "mashups" so yeah, recoiling is not unusual

deepomega (#1,720)

Coincidentally I am a man whose primary influence is "mashups", so yeah.

deepomega (#1,720)

I am utterly confused as to why Amazon thinks this album isn't out yet. Ack!

Miles Klee (#3,657)

in general i'm a fan, but treats has a hell of a lot of filler for a 32-minute album

G3K (#4,876)

Is it possible to compare these guys to Limp Bizkit and not mean that negatively? Because the same part of my brain that loves this record is the same part that thought "Nookie" was pretty awesome in junior high. Between this and "XXXO", today pop music belongs to N.E.E.T.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

"made for droning one's life away in a vaguely creative cubicle farm, full of beautiful, correctly executed moments that had zero resonance except to serve as placeholders until the next batch of aesthetes came along"

this is also what's wrong with most mainstream literary fiction

s0upStain (#2,152)

It didn't leak because it's only available, currently, via download. (iTunes). It comes out on physical formats this summer.

That's also why it isn't available on Amazon.com.

katiechasm (#163)

Wait, what counts as a leak? Crown on the Ground and Ring Ring/Rill Rill have been bouncing around the internet for a few months now.

s0upStain (#2,152)

Ring Ring and Crown on the Ground are from an EP which was released quite some time ago.

Slava (#216)

The main point of comparison for me is Crystal Castles. Especially the new CC.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

new CC is better

Slava (#216)

Muuuch better, but that's beside the point.

Pintonator (#2,236)

I keep thinking Swizz Beatz. I start at "On to the Next One" and move unhappily to "Transform Ya" and its unpleasant Chris Brown parentage.

stannate (#4,898)

OK, smartass math equation time:

Sleigh Bells = A Place To Bury Strangers – Jesus and Mary Chain + Pipettes

balsa_wood (#465)

Does anyone else not quite buy the cubicle complaint? First off, working at home (or in Awl HQ?) isn't THAT much cooler than working in a cubicle, and doesn't the fact that Sleigh Bells are being talked up on the Awl and plenty of other blogs speak to a certain…pop accessibility? Also, the past several years have given us Liars, Lightning Bolt, Jay Reatard…even Hot Chip or MIA or LCD or Place to Bury Strangers or Le Tigre, etc etc. Is this cubicle music too, or inoffensive blandness? Mastodon? Or are we comparing Sleigh Bells to Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, bands that sound completely different?

I ain't getting this dichotomy. But then, I also don't know how you can listen to this and hear Ludacris or Dirty Projectors (?!). Or George Michael's "Faith."

Ha, I'm not denigrating anyone who works in a cubicle. Just saying that Grizzly Bear/Fleet Foxes/Feist/name whatever other bands collaborated with those artists (and sold very well! which Liars LB JR etc did not!) had a certain preciousness about them. Animal Collective is almost kinda there, but they're a bit too abrasive to really be the current generation's equivalent of those radio stations that tout their office-listening accessibility.

balsa_wood (#465)

I believe those bands have been aptly dubbed "NPR rock" by…someone.

All of this points to the uselessness of the "indie" moniker, as Fleet Foxes and Sleigh Bells just don't play in the same universe, musically. I guess with Sleigh Bells I see a heavy helping of novelty that might run thin pretty soon. And I still can't help but think it's music missing a counterpart–like, it would work better in the background of a party, or offset by a video, art piece, performance, etc. As another commenter wrote, some of this stuff feels like filler–maybe we should find an empty vessel somewhere.

Multiphasic (#411)

All of this points to the uselessness of the "indie" moniker

Not to be all "guh-duh," but… guh-duh. Considering the fact that the genre term refers to the economic structures with which its disseminated, no, the term means absolutely jack shit as an aesthetic descriptor. Oh, and now also means jack shit as an economic one. So really, at this point, it's an either onanistic or just bitchy (depending on who's using the term) nod to the self-image of the kind of people who listen to this music.

balsa_wood (#465)

Not sure I understand "guh-duh." How offended should I be?

Multiphasic (#411)

It's like "duh" but syllable-y-er. And to answer your question, about as offended as you would be by anyone using the word "duh" alone. Hopefully not very?

Grant G Brown (#3,366)

Is NPR rock a bad thing? Because NPR has been streaming Treats since yesterday, and I've had it in constant rotation (er, replay). The analogies to candy and crack are completely accurate.

oh i absolutely agree about 'indie' being a worthless term. colleagues of mine have tried to figure out alternatives (lol no pun intended) to no avail.

balsa_wood (#465)

Okay, good. Self-esteem unshredded.

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