Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleigh Bells, 'Treats' Review

On the surface, it is easy to dismiss this band as just the "band of the week", you know, the kind of act bloggers go crazy about during a few days, then forget about it. When you learn more about this band, the feeling of having seen this before becomes stronger: they are from Brooklyn, they make "noise pop" (whatever that means), they are a girl and a guy, obviously the girl sings and the guy does all the rest, etc.
But I really think there's something special about this one. And I'm not writing here because their songs are annoying and repetitive enough to prevent them from becoming Lady Gaga type famous, and thus uncool, or because Pitchfork and M.I.A love them. To be honest, their songs are at times too distorted to my ears, and most bands hyped by Pitchfork do, well, suck.
I'm writing here because, despite its flaws, Treats it the best album of the year so far, and because I've never been so impressed with a debut album since MGMT took over the indie world in 2008.
Treats is a weird album. One could describe it as part Crystal Castles, part Lady Gaga, part Animal Collective (does that make sense?), but the truth is: you never heard anything like it. There are a lot of bass sounds, laser sounds and distortions. It's loud and aggressive, deliberately trying to make you feel uncomfortable. But it's also fast and pop. Alexis's voice is ear candy.
The conflict between the loud instruments and the melodic voice is probably its strongest quality. In this sense, Sleigh Bells are this year's Crystal Castles but not really. If you want violence and distortion a la CC, it's there. Hear 'Straigh A's'.
But Sleigh Bells have the kind of pop potential to make them much more than a cult band (don't get me wrong, I love Crystal Castles, but let's face it, they are never going to be on the radio...). Rill Rill is the kind of track that might make them appeal beyond the indie crowds. Here the pace is slower (but not that slower...), and Alexis's beautiful voice wins over the loudness. It's the type of song that invites you to sing along to.
It's hard to pick the best song in an album this good. The first one to come to my attention was lead single Tell'Em. It pulsates with such confidence and energy that it is hard to believe that this is a new band that just released their first album.
Crown On The Ground is the song that made this band blog-famous last year and after hearing it, you can understand why. It could be a huge radio hit if it wasn't so distorted, but this actually makes it more enjoyable for hipsters.
Treats is not only a technical triumph, but also has true pop appeal and originality. In an era where most bands either sound like more of the same, or are simply too punishing to listen to, this is really a big deal.
Because this is such a good album, haters have to find something to criticize and much has been said about its supposed lack of staying power. "Nobody will remember it in three months", some say. I'd say, who cares? This week, it sounds like the best thing in the world.

Grade: 9.5