Album Review: Sleigh Bells – Treats




Who said everything’s been done? I distinctly recall a scene from HBO’s lauded series Six Feet Under in which two pretentious artists argue back and forth about how everything has already been done and that everything that is created in any facet of art is a recreation of something already done before. The consensus of the conversation was that originality is dead. Well, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with HBO’s fictional artists. The proof to back my argument? Sleigh BellsTreats.

Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss don’t waste their time with giving us their take on popular indie music. They don’t take something great and re-make it to suit a more commercial audience (i.e. MGMT attempting to make of Montreal for teens, Muse making Radiohead for dummies). They don’t regurgitate the same old things we so often hear from new bands. They give us something new to consider, and that is why this is a fantastic album. Every track takes you into previously unexplored territory, and each track leaves you begging for more of this new sensation.

Use of simple sampling/bass-heavy electronic beats, multiplied by Derek Miller’s good old fashioned guitar work, all intermingled with Alexis Krauss’s sometimes sweet, sometimes harsh vocals make for a sound previously undiscovered. It’s heavy, it’s catchy, it’s sexy, and it’s sweet: the soundtrack to your summer has arrived. There is something about hearing something completely original, or something completely new to you that is enchanting beyond words. Think about the first time you heard anything by Animal Collective. Your thoughts were probably akin to mine: “What on earth is this? These are the noises a mental outpatient has nightmares about. So why do I like it so much? What’s happening to me?” Given, Sleigh Bells is considerably less experimental than Animal Collective, but the comparison stands in terms of originality. This is something you’ve never heard before and this is something that’s going to grow on you. Hard.

Sleigh Bells are quite the success story. In a nutshell, Derek met Alexis while he was waiting on her table in Brooklyn last September and they got to talking about music. One thing led to another and they formed a band that blew us all away at CMJ this past winter and have been on a whirlwind trip ever since. They released an impressive set of demos, 2HELLWU, a few months after their inception that was filled with goodies and kept all watching for their next move.

Well, Treats, is their next move, apparently, and the album is just another piece in a long list of evidence that proves that having friends in high places never hurts. M.I.A. picked these guys up without hesitation and whatever she prescribed to this duo worked with frightening force. They took a few tracks off 2HELLWU and gave them the M.I.A. treatment. Five of the seven tracks from that demo made the cut for the LP, but each has been tweaked (mostly for the better) in some way. Demo favorites “Crown On The Ground”, “A/B Machines”, and “Infinity Guitars” all make up this effort, under their same name and with little or no changes made. The other two, however, are such vast re-workings that they required new names. The first, “Kids”, formerly “Beach Girls”, sports a much more elaborate intro, and more powerful guitar/bass hits and a more organized moaning/spoken word section by Krauss. It’s a major improvement on a song that was already pretty solid. The second track changed didn’t need any reworking, as it was arguably the best track from the set of demos, but the creators felt differently. “Rill Rill”, formerly “Ring Ring”, is re-worked only slightly, but is improved through a much clearer sample and better placed bass hits. Overall, the demo is well represented and the re-works sound better than ever.

Entirely new tracks do not fail to impress, either. Treats kicks off with its most impressive track new track “Tell ‘Em” that sets the pace for the rest of the album. Big samples, noisy guitar, and infectious vocals do their magic in exemplifying exactly what Sleigh Bells are all about. Other notables include the absurdly catchy melodic “Run The Heart”, heavy-hitter “Riot Rhythm” and epic album closer/title track “Treats”. These four tracks add to the already standing five tracks to make for an incredibly solid album. However, there are two strangely forgettable tracks. “Rachel” and “Straight A’s” are two songs that not only feel weak amidst their competitors, but are outright boring, which is strange given the quality of the remainder of the album.

This album’s going to find haters a-plenty, but would it be art if it didn’t? Many have already spoken out against it, citing monotony, obnoxiousness, and lack of staying power as the album’s flaws. Rather than rebutting any of those arguments individually, I’ll produce one umbrella statement to address all of them. It’s different, and that makes people uncomfortable. People like normalcy. They like to feel comfortable. And when something new is thrown at them, rarely is there a good reaction initially. People didn’t love Kid A at first, but check back with those same people today. As the old adage says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” I’m willing to wager that those involved in building Rome didn’t accept the blueprints as gospel in a day, either. Greatness comes with time. Treats is loud, it’s fast, and it’s fun. Enjoy it.