Despite being an employee at a record store and having a bevy of impressively music obsessed friends, I am often behind in listening to new albums. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I get stuck on one album for weeks. I want nothing else but to listen to that one record at all times—in my car, on my iPod, when I’m working at school, etc. And it’s usually not “new” music either. Too often it’s an old Elliot Smith album, or the Pixies’ greatest hits, or even the Toadies’ Rubberneck. One minute I put in Figure 8, and then before you know it September is half over and I just got around to putting the new Big Boi in my CD player.
The second reason is something I like to call “The Vampire Weekend Vortex.” By all accounts, I should adore Vampire Weekend. I like kitsch. I like indie rock. I like cardigans. I especially like cardigans when paired with literary references. And yet, I loathe Vampire Weekend. They repulse me. This has caused me to arbitrarily form opinions about certain bands on the basis that they may be something like Vampire Weekend. Examples of bands that have fallen into the V.W.V.: Beach House, Animal Collective, The Dum Dum Girls, She & Him, and Wavves. Sometimes a band is stuck there forever (i.e. She & Him), and other times I grit my teeth, push play, and am pleasantly surprised when I actually enjoy the album (i.e. Beach House’s Teen Dream). And then sometimes I listen to the album and I fall in love. While this seldom happens, it was certainly the case when I heard Sleigh Bells’Treats (2010).
Treats is grandiose. It’s bombastic. It’s fast. It draws beats from across genres, and then lets them go like confetti in your speakers. And it’s hard to believe all this noise is coming from just two people. Alexis Krauss layers diverse vocals on top of Derek E. Miller’s energetic guitar and elaborate production to deliver a unique sound. Krauss is two parts cheerleader, one part mean girl on the deliciously infectious track “Riot Rhythm.” “Straight A’s” is nothing short of raucous, while “Crown on the Ground” is the bona fide dance party number. The title track “Treats” punctuates the album precisely, running the closing the credits as if saying, “Now, I want you to sit quietly and think about what you just heard.”
Trying to fit this album into a genre is a difficult task. It’s not straightforward dance pop, nor is it to-the-letter rock music. The best categorical description I’ve come across is “noise pop,” which suits the muscular guitar playing, without denying that the music is indeed bubbly. If The Chemical Brothers and Liars had a lovechild, they would name it Sleigh Bells.
Treats was released jointly by Mom + Pop Music and M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T Recordings and is Sleigh Bells’ debut album. I’m seriously eager to hear how they plan to follow this sonorous gem. You can always listen before you buy at OZ Music, so stop by and check it out. You’ll find Treats on my employee picks shelf, for a limited time sale price. Sleigh Bells defied my expectations, and once again proved my Vampire Weekend Vortex to be a faulty construct. I hope you delight in its distinctive sound and raw energy, too.