Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stick This In Your MP3 Player: Sleigh Bells’ “Treats”

I first heard of Sleigh Bells at this summer's Pitchfork music festival. I hadn't heard any of their music, but there was lot of chatter in the crowd an hour before their set on Sunday. What I heard from random fellow concert-goers was that it's going to be Loud and Awesome.

They were dead right on both counts.

Sleigh Bells are a duo whose music I guess you could describe as "Electronic Noise Pop-Rock." Emphasis on the "Noise" – the band's guitarist and producer Derek E. Miller follows in the footsteps of bands going back to The Who to The Velvet Underground to My Bloody Valentine in the use of distortion, feedback, and hyper-amped PA systems to create a distinct texture of music that's the same volume of Heavy Metal but a different feel.

To give a very rough sketch of what the sound is like: imagine If someone took an old '80s double-cassette boom-box, put Run-DMC one side, Tiffany on the other, and played both at the same time with the volume turned all the way up.

To some ears, it’s easy to dismiss Sleigh Bells as meaningless noise, the small "n" noise that suggests unpleasant racket as opposed to the capitol "N" Noise of a legitimate musical style. I support the latter interpretation. This is confident, hooky, inviting Noise that's more immediate and visceral than just about anything else to come along recently.

Alexis Kraus is the band's singer. She spent some time in a teen pop group, but has traded it in for an edgier style. At the band's Pitchfork set, dressed in all black with her raven hair and tattoos, she looked very much like her generation's Grace Slick or Stevie Nicks, although she doesn't sound like either of those front-women.

Her voice has the sweetness and technical competence of a glee-club soloist, but it's also strong enough to withstand the aural assault coming from the speakers. And she knows how to work a live stage. She’s got the charisma to be a pop star, if pop-stardom was anything worth aspiring to.

So far Sleigh Bells has one album, "Treats,” that is easily one of the best albums of the year, in my opinion. You may love tracks like "Tell 'Em," "Crown on the Ground,” or “Rill Rill,” or you may hate them, but you will not ignore them. If you've been looking for something new to crank up, Sleigh Bells has done it for you. All you have to do is listen.

Click here to go to the band's Web site

Click here to go to the band's Wikipedia page

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