Always a powerful and raw band whether live or on record, Sleigh Bells always bring hefty amounts of energy to their records. In recent years however, the band’s broader sonic exploration has led to some truly surprising moments of pop greatness from the band between their loud and proud guitar rock. On their first in a series of mini albums however, this mix of experimentation and in-your-face amp blasting offers a mixed result to say the least. Full of ideas, the album’s biggest fallback is its inability to fit them together. While Alexis Krauss’ vocals are a fun standout of the record, the album is so consistently jumping somewhere new that they’re hard to remember for long.
Ringing with a swell of synth bliss, the album opens on the amazing build of “Blue Trash Mattress” as it moves towards its distorted release with angelic bells. Cutting in with their usual mix of blasted out drums and shredding guitars, there’s a distinctly benevolent tone to their roaring this time around. While its initial burst of energy is devastating, the chords and progressions feel almost corny by the finale.
“Favourite Transgressions” however hits a driving and steady groove, mixing a menacing snarl with the exciting twist of Krauss’ harmonies. Leaning into the repetitive nature of its blues loop, the track makes the most of its dynamics and hip hop production style by switching things around so rapidly that you’re constantly guessing where it will go next. Closing with more sombre notes, Krauss’ catchy vocal line takes the song out with a fun hook.
Instantly addictive in its tambourine-shaking percussion and subtle melody, “Rainmaker” stands out from first listen. Krass enters on brash synth notes and dense harmonies that make her vocals huge, making her shouts to an abusive lover all the more powerful. While its chorus feels more emotional than gripping, the light hook and percussive track ends up becoming the most iconic hook of the whole song.
“Panic Drills” burns brightly like a growling version of the band’s “Rill Rill” with a much larger space for the vocals to float in. Even with Krauss’ clever vocal hooks and gripping bridge, much of the song feels too loosely written to carry listeners through. Bending guitars like a classic 70’s track, the song carries more strong moments than it does cohesion. While the parts may not fit together, Sleigh Bells fans will easily find the worthwhile hooks in each section.
Taking electronic beats and haunting vocal warps, “Show Me The Door” is the most experimental track on the record. Spinning tones of Grimes with delicate piano melodies, the track really feels like two styles mashing together in interesting but inaccessible ways. A patchwork of its many synth lines, it never feels like it ties them together elegantly.
“Florida Thunderstorm” layers Krauss’ ethereal vocals on swaying guitar lines, as the reverb cranks up to make the song more and more ethereal. Like a demented folk song the track blooms with a soaring chorus as Krauss screams her emotions to the cricket-filled night. Fading the harmonies like a breeze, the guitars take the song out with a majestic crawl as the touches of strings really pop in the track’s outro.
Running with the most cohesive bass line of the album, “And Saints” finds Krauss’ harmonies playing off each other as they cross back and forth along the main groove of the track. Contrasting the bright tones of the synth cries with her passionate wails, the track’s build never truly pays off satisfyingly. As a finale however, the more moody style of the track, along with its little piano riff, takes the album out with a unique sense of mystery.
Words by Owen Maxwell