When you think of Sleigh Bells, what are some words that come to mind? Loud? Aggressive? Raw? For a band that has managed to find their niche in the world of shred-pop, listeners may be wondering how they could even top their first two full length efforts with another album. The Brooklyn duo’s third album Bitter Rivals, balances the line between the recklessness and rawness and of their first album, Treats, and the careful, almost restrained production of their second, Reign Of Terror, with masterful ease. Bitter Rivals is poppier and more exuberant, while still maintaining the menace expected from the band’s music. Here, vocalist Alexis Krauss shows us the full range of her vocal spectrum, from almost cloyingly sweet to intimidatingly harsh. Because of this, the album appeals to both old fans and new listeners who may have found their sound too grating. With a whole lot of pop and even more punch, Sleigh Bells calls us back to attention, reminding the world why we were so drawn to them in the first place.
The album opens with the duo’s leading single and title track, “Bitter Rivals.” It starts off with crunchy acoustic guitar riffs but very quickly spirals into an anthemic head-banging tune, with Krauss shout-singing over bandmate Derek Miller’s shredding guitar and booming drums. Other tracks, such as “Minnie” and “Sing Like A Wire” are reminiscent of their first album, with sounds that could fill a stadium and the surrounding area. Some songs on the album, such as “You Don’t Get Me Twice” and the R&B-tinged “Love Sick” and “Young Legends” tone back the shred-guitar and opt for a simpler (about as simple as Sleigh Bells can get, really) instrumentation, focusing on extremely catchy melodies and even sweeter vocals. Included on the album is also a version of their 2009 track “To Hell With You,” originally known as “2HELLWU,” which one may even venture to call a ballad of sorts. Ballad? Sleigh Bells? What?? It works, in a way that only they can pull off.