Because even a post-digital music world can be a little cautious about writing off critically acclaimed music acts, it took until 2016 for Sleigh Bells to officially become unfashionable. Their almost universally acclaimed 2010 debut Treats machine-gunned through 2010 with gleeful abandon, and their swift follow-ups Reign of Terror (2012) and Bitter Rivals (2013) garnered the kind of respectable reviews that are retroactively called lukewarm later, like for example when Jessica Rabbit dropped this year. The newest Sleigh Bells album was damned with faint praise about it at least being more inventive than Bitter Rivals but never reaching the heights of Treats.
But what does? What in the world is ever as good as the first bunch of times you bump Treats with the windows rolled down as you cruise back into your hometown for a weekend? (Is that just me? The point is, Treats owns.) The Sleigh Bells formula of cartoonish thrash plus angelic pop vocals is malleable enough to sustain several records, and Jessica Rabbit mixes it up appropriate (and sometimes, OK, strenuously). Its best reconfiguration of the thrash-to-pop ratio comes in “I Can’t Stand You Anymore,” a kiss-off that might have, on their earlier records, been a full fuck-off. Singer and co-writer Alexis Krauss asserts herself on the vocal track, giving a sweet-and-spiky pop performance the dominates over Derek Miller’s somewhat less jacked-up guitars. Instead of killer riffs, the song rests on a full-on vocal riff as Krauss sings that “bombs don’t compare to the trouble you give me/I just can’t stand you anymore.” It’s dramatic, but not in the way that many of the other best Sleigh Bells tunes are dramatic; many of those sound like an emergency alarm, while this one sounds, dare I say it, almost diva-ish, except with a casual relatability not often found with practiced oversingers.
Yet Sleigh Bells hasn’t replaced itself entirely. Before the second verse, Krauss calls out in a slightly distorted vocal, “CONFESSION!” except it’s actually more like “CONFESSION:” — she’s prefacing what she’s about to sing. For a micro-moment, “I Can’t Stand You Anymore” recaptures that Treats sound, fae my shioning the tinest of hooks from their instantly recognizable style. It might be my favorite single second of music this year.
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