'Tis the season to be jolly. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller - better known as Sleigh Bells - are back with their fourth studio album, Jessica Rabbit. The duo arrived onto the scene with their raucous 2010 album Treats and have never looked back. Their music is best described as a mix of heavy guitars with a heavy pop element. They’re a band that have an easily recognised style from the get go. Added with a wild live show; they’ve been a big name in alternative music scene for over half a decade.
After the release of their previous album, Bitter Rivals, the duo began to feel confined by their distinct sound. So, for Jessica Rabbit, they’ve tried some new instrumentation, swapping guitar for synths, and also using different time signatures and strange drum machine samples. They have also gone one step further to enlist help from big name hip hop producers Mike Elizondo and Andrew Dawson, which has paved a way for an entirely new Sleigh Bells sound.
Opening track “It’s Just Us Now” shows us they mean business. It still has those heavy-as-hell guitars and pumped up attitude but there is a hip hop influenced drum throughout, too. Combined with a weird temp switch during the chorus, it stands up to the test of change. What hasn't been forewarned, however, is how different Krauss sounds. She has a much cleaner vocal, with less echo and a clear vocal range, comparable to Gwen Stefani, and that’s meant as a compliment.
In “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold” shows that mostly, the synth Sleigh Bells use is still very loud and buzzy. While this naturally gave them a rockier edge with guitar, it sounds daringly close to EDM with synth. “Unlimited Dark Paths” goes a little Euro trash, which sometimes is hard to palate as it’s such a contrast from their usual sound. When they try to go super pop in “Baptism By Fire” it could be compared to the track “Roar” by Katy Perry before it shoots off into something near happy hardcore. It’s just a bit much.
The album does have some gems. Tracks like “I Can't Stand You Anymore”, are the perfect amount of change. Jessica Rabbit still has sprinklings of talk singing and heavy guitar, but it branches out to become more angst pop.
Having a such a distinctive sound is both a blessing and a curse for Sleigh Bells. Although the variety sometimes feels sporadic, it’s understandable that the band don’t want to be curbed. Their new musical path should be able to generate new ways to make their live shows even crazier than they already are.
Release: 11th November 2016, Torn Clean