Sleigh Bells Sleigh BellsTreats
I don’t know if this happens to everybody, but sometimes I hear albums and I know the first time that I hear them, that I am going to spin them until they disintegrate. Not only because I personally love them, but because I can also foresee that they are going to turn up all around me. The album for going to the beach, the album for having a barbecue on the terrace, the album for drinking grocery-store booze at home, the album for playing in the car on the way to a summer festival, or coming back from a wild night in a bad part of town. In other words, a worthy substitute for what M.I.A.’s “ Arular” was in its day. The Englishwoman might not know how to sing, but after putting out “ Treats” under her own label, you can’t deny that she has a GPS for locating a hit and exploiting it. Even if the merit isn’t completely hers.
Sleigh Bells is the story of Derek Miller, ex-guitarist of the hardcore group Poison The Well, who happened to be in the right place at the right time to meet Alexis Krauss, a waitress with an interest in music who had done taken her first steps as a vocalist. With luck on his side, Miller found in Krauss’s bipolar voice–at times limpid sweetness, at other times lower-class cockiness—the perfect complement for his orgy of guitars, boxes of rhythms, and a lot of distortion. The formula triumphed in New York (it seems that Lady Luck smiled at them again by putting a musical journalist in the duo’s social circle); and if you’ve triumphed in the capital of the world, you’ve already done half of the work. The next thing was to reach the ears of Diplo, to end up opening for Major Lazer, being liked by M.I.A., and getting a date and a shape for a debut.
The weight of composition and production falls on Miller, an unrepentant hardcore head, but disappointed with a community that is sufficiently orthodox to call you a sell-out at the slightest opportunity. In fact, I don’t think that many followers of Poison the Well will end up surrendering to the drums with flow and the intelligible, easy choruses of “ Infinity Guitars” or “ Run The Heart”. But those who thought it was good for Travis Barker to join forces with DJ AM –now replaced by A-Trak– will like it, because the formula is similar: bring together the best feelings of hardcore punk with the most saleable aspect of mainstream. There is “ Kids” (called “ Beach Girls” in the duo’s demo) and “ Riot Rhythm” to corroborate that. These, accompanied by “ Tell’em” and “Infinity Guitars”, make up ten minutes of ecstasy for lovers of the air guitar. To these four songs you could add “ A/B Machines” and those western picks (they seem identical to the ones Major Lazer used in “ Hold The Line”) at the end of the album. The number of revolutions per minute, and the intensity of the distortion, lowers in the middle. Still good tracks, but “ Run The Heart” or “ Rachel” exploit the more pop sensibilities of the invention, reaching a peak with “ Rill Rill,” where it is the guitars –in this case acoustic– that accompany Alexis Krauss’ voice, and not the opposite, in a song with a high dosage of cinematography.
At this point, there is still the final bang to come; a big bang - long, noisy and explosive. “ Crown On The Ground” wakes you up from whatever bit of bucolic trance you might have been reached with “ Rill Rill,” using distortion, and if my hearing isn’t off, it’s practically the same four chords of “ Heartbeat” by The Knife. In “ Straight A’s” Krauss brings out the riot grrrl she has inside for a minute and a half that seem to be stolen from Crystal Castles. “ Treats” only sticks with Miller’s brilliant idea of hooking up a voice with a pop pull to the 4 x 4 of hip hop, dressing it all up with the electric energy of guitars and a ton of distortion. The man has a gift for melodies, which nestle themselves comfortable in your head from the very first moment, and stick with you all day. This is the umpteenth time I’ve listened to the album, and besides thinking that it’s going to be the hit of the summer, I can’t get out Lil Wayne and “his” guitar on the cover of “Rebirth”out of my mind. It wasn’t so hard to do a hip hop pose album with a ton of rock guitars, Wayne… Sleigh Bells says hello to you with a: “ pow, right in the kisser.” Mónica Franco
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