Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells (Creative Commons)
They're screaming loud. They'll make you move. And despite the name, have nothing to do with Christmas.
In May, the Brooklyn noise pop, dance punk duo Sleigh Bells
released their debut album, "Treats," via Mom + Pop records
. Before they shared any recordings with the public, the group had gained notoriety last year through favorable music blog reviews on their live shows as well as a stint at the SXSW
festival. And their novelty continues to impress.
"Treats" opens with two jarring bangs and a Hendrix-y guitar riff as their first single "Tell 'Em" does not hesitate to introduce them as an instrumentally hard, loud rock band. But then singer Alexis Krauss takes over the noise with a soothing, choral melody ("All the girls, all the girls these days / All the girls, all the girls these days / Did you do your best today? / Did you do your best today?"). It's an unexpected juxtaposition of sound, slightly reminiscent of the Blonde Redhead
song "Luv Machine."
And it does not quiet down from there, which has the potential to alarm the cautious listener. Except, this clash of aggressive music and clear, innocuous singing makes Sleigh Bells worthwhile; they stand out in a world of generic music that, at best, plays the role of background filler.
Until the fourth track, "Infinity Guitars," Krauss maintains a poppy, dulcet tone. Then she matches guitarist and producer Derek E. Miller's intensity as she belts out odd lyrics followed by a peaceful "ahh." (Street wars, straight men / Cowboys, Indians / Red souls, red friends / Infinity guitars, go 'head.) No two songs sound alike, yet they have the same running dichotomy of intense guitars and pure pop vocals.
On "Run The Heart," if the instruments were removed, the song would be a purely beautiful lullaby. But the ferocity is there in the distortion, making the song really rock. Just as songwriter Miller toys with their sound, the lyrics are quirky.
For "Rill Rill," Krauss sings phrases like "Keep thinking about every straight face yes / Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces" to a simple-yet-clapable drumbeat. This song is easy to remember hours after listening due to a catchy chorus and steady guitar line.
Another highlight comes on the track "Crown On The Ground." The guitars build up and Krauss sings playfully, repeating certain last words of various phrases. Then she finishes off the choruses - a chant of "set, set that crown on the ground" six times in a row - with something as close to a yell as the careful, melodious singer wants to try. At least for now.
On "Straight A's," though, she rids all pleasantries and lets loose in a basically incomprehensible wail. They are a noise pop band after all.
Even though "Treats" is their first album together, both Krauss and Miller have been around musically. Miller formerly played guitar for the hardcore band, Poison The Well
. And Krauss sang in teen pop group, Rubyblue. These experiences complement their roles in Sleigh Bells nicely: Miller brings the aggression and Krauss keeps it smooth.
The two met and formed Bells two years ago after Miller waited tables on Krauss and her mother at a diner in New York. He told her that he was seeking a female singer for his latest musical experiment, and her mom volunteered her.
That meeting turned into a unique sound that proves there is modern music out there that keeps it fresh.