The debut album from Sleigh Bells, 2010’s Treats, juxtaposes bombastic, blown-out metal production with singer Alexis Krauss’ overly saccharine voice. It’s a violent combination that shouldn’t work as well as it does. The visceral record comes across as simple and direct—in the way that it feels like a sharp punch straight to the face. And even though the recipe for Treats felt like a put-on, former child-pop-singer Krauss and Poison the Well guitarist Derek E. Miller’s always appeared fully committed to the genre amalgamation.
2012’s follow-up, Reign of Terror opens with the song “True Shred Guitar,” which doubles down on the heavy metal influences and shows the band’s desire to be a great live band. In the battle between melody and noise, on Reign of Terror, noise wins out. When they played Turner Hall Ballroom behind the album that year, the duo stood in front of stacks upon stacks of Marshall amplifiers. They, indeed, sounded huge.
However, on the following year’s Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells worked in some more subtlety to their typically straightforward metal-pop hooks. The stylistic change was perhaps thanks to Krauss taking over some writing duties—this time coming up with her melodies. Synthesizers and acoustic guitars also find their way into the production, displaying some added dynamism to the band’s sound.
On Sleigh Bells’ latest record, 2016’s Jessica Rabbit, the band continues along that linear sonic path towards more divergent sounds, rather than the one-dimensional noise-pop of the band’s debut. Krauss takes over even more of the songwriting duties, as the record becomes the most egalitarian effort of the duo to date.
It also took the longest time to record. The delay was due to a more arduous filtering process. “It was like writing three or four songs and one would survive,” Miller told Rolling Stone in September. “So maybe after six months we’d written seven or eight songs, but maybe only two or three are going to come with us into the next six months. I started recording when we got on the bus for the Bitter Rivals tour in October of 2013 and we finished tracking in June of 2016. After Bitter Rivals I needed to go away and face some shit and deal with myself and not put something out unless I love it to death. Having that much time gives you the luxury to not despise your record five minutes after it’s finished.”
Sleigh Bells headlines the Rave at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22 with opener Tunde Olaniran.
Video of the Week
Remember when two days of snowfall blanketed Milwaukee last week? You can’t tell simply by looking outside anymore. All that snow has melted from the warm March sun. Celebrate the vanishing powder with “The Thaw,” the new, fitting music video from raucous hardcore band Static Eyes.