Look, let me just begin this review by telling you that I don’t actually know where to begin. Sleigh Bells makes me lose my mind. Since Treats was released last week, I have listened to it approximately 1,576 times. I can’t stop – it’s like 32 minutes of musical popcorn that always tastes good and never fills me up. This album is like nothing I’ve ever listened to, in the best way possible. It is diametrically opposed to The National’s High Violet, which has been playing Dr. Jekyll to Sleigh Bells’ Mr. Hyde in my headphones this week. My brain is so mashed up that I hardly know what to do with myself.
You can’t write about, listen to, or think about Sleigh Bells without the word loud planting itself firmly in the middle of everything. It’s the epicenter of the Sleigh Bells universe, the crux of what makes them so immediate. Treats takes control of your volume knob without you knowing it. No longer is there choice in the matter; even played at low decibel levels, this album cranks like it’s about to burst. The album is all about power – it’s like someone ran the guitars on Treats through a trash compactor and continued to compress them together until they were a solid, gnarly chunk. It’s high octane power metal that will obliterate your speakers if you let it. And you’re going to want to let it.
This is a sweaty, raw piece of art that doesn’t give a damn about your eardrums or your heart rate. Opener “Tell ‘Em” kicks the album off with industrial guitars like gunshots, sustained industrial power chords that drift and buzz as your head slowly recalibrates to the new level of awesome being injected into your ears. As you adjust, you can hear some people yelling incomprehensibly in the background and you get this feeling, this growing excitement, deep down at your core. When Alexis Krauss’ stacked and split vocals drip their honey over that raw foundation, you realize, “I haven’t heard anything like this before.” SWEET.
Because Treats more than just loud. The album has a pop sensibility that transcends the sheer visceral guts of the music. The building and breaking of beats and rhythms is impeccably timed to pick you up and then drop you from great heights. I dare you to sit still when you listen to these songs. I challenge you to find better situated blasts than those found on “Infinity Guitars” and “Crown on the Ground.” It’s hardcore you can dance to. It’s bubblegum pop that makes you want to head-bang. The confluence of genres and influences create a beautiful mess of music that goes far beyond amplification. Some have decried the album as simply trading on novel production techniques rather than musicianship. I reject that notion flat out – there’s a body beneath these clothes that would look just as good naked.
An entire article could be written about what Sleigh Bells can teach us about the hype cycle and the internet music era. This is not that article. In my mind, anyone who doesn’t like this album because it comes from a heavily buzzed band is an idiot and is missing out. Feel free to dislike the music – that’s a matter of taste. But if you don’t like the album because of what it “stands for,” you’re a chump. End of story.
Personally, I love the music. It has a brash I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude that is celebratory, not confrontational. In a recent interview with Time Out New York, guitarist Derek Miller said, “I really like and respect bands that have a super-well-thought-out, well-executed aesthetic, a spin for their band, but it’s not in the cards for us. Right now it’s the record; we want the music to speak for itself.” This music isn’t just speaking for itself, it’s shouting. “A/B Machines” will pound fourteen nearly nonsensical words directly into your grey matter. “Rill Rill” recontextualizes a Funkadelic hook into a summertime jam for high school romances. The entire album has a sense of “Let’s have fun while we can,” “Who cares who is watching,” and “We don’t have much time.” This band doesn’t need to construct an identity outside of the music they produce – listening to Treats leaves no doubt about the type of rockstars who made it.
When I first heard Treats, I was worried that it was going to have a short shelf life – that I was going to have my face rocked a few times only to have the album lose its novelty and become old hat. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a formula that stands the test of time; no matter how many times I’ve heard “Treats” and “Infinity Guitars” and “Tell ‘Em,” they will still bring a goofy grin to my face and a start my head pumping. In fact, now that I’ve been listening to the album for a week, I’m worried that I may never be able to stop. Words by Chris Barth.
90 — Near Perfection. One of the best albums in recent memory. Required listening for anyone who loves music in its purest form. [Rating Scale]
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DOWNLOAD: "Tell 'Em"