Few bands have had as much success in such a short period of time as Sleigh Bells. The duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller have gained a terrific – and deserved – reputation in the past few years after releasing their first two albums, Treats and Reign of Terror. Returning with their third album Bitter Rivals, have the twosome continued their hot streak or succumbed to the pressures of continued improvement?
Kicking off with the instrumentally-simple title track ‘Bitter Rivals’, Sleigh Bells introduce us to a sound which continues from where Reign of Terror closed. The minimal vocal distortion – as with Reign of Terror – in comparison to the tracks on Treats makes for a more welcoming sound; ‘Bitter Rivals’ is a bright start to the album, made all the better by Miller’s catchy guitar.
The album really picks up with the fourth track, ‘Sing Like a Wire’. With a short melody that harks back to early 90s game shows, the track is a lovely example of what the band are all about: loud, distorted pop with catchy lyrics and punchy riffs.’Young Legends’ is the follow up track, and kicks the album up to another level. A cleaner sound meets a fantastic chorus, which is great preparation for the rather bonkers ‘Tiger Kit’, where the duo appear to have drafted in farm animals for backing vocals. Another signature Sleigh Bells track, ‘Tiger Kit’ is a powerful blend of crazy, pop and heavy guitars. The distortion level is cranked up again for ‘To Hell With You’, while the prominent sound of the whistle adds an interesting layer to the track.
‘You Don’t Get Me Twice’ is a strange track, but a wonderful kind of strange. The numerous individual sections may appear a little wild and lacking character initially, but it quickly becomes evident that this track sits perfectly both on its own and as part of the album. It may not initially feel like a Sleigh Bells track, but boy, it is. The album finishes with ‘24’, a catchy track with a great guitar line and possibly the best vocal performance on the album from Krauss, and ‘Love Sick’, which feels both like a closing track and the start of something new.
Bitter Rivals is another evolution of Sleigh Bells. Their ability to create well rounded songs has improved immensely since Treats, and has helped the duo reach greater heights than could initially have been expected. Though they may have toned down the strange on this record, their uniqueness remains intact throughout and helps to make this record fantastic. Bitter Rivals may feel a little short with only ten tracks, yet it feels open to expansion, as if the duo are yet to finish this part of their life. I, for one, can’t wait for more.
Bitter Rivals is out on 8th October on Mom + Pop Music, and can be pre-ordered now.