Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sleigh Bells - Tell 'Em

I don't know what to make of this band.

I have to say, I saw them from afar at Coachella '10 and found whatever they were playing at the time to be extremely unpleasant. I kind of wrote it off as hipster noisy nonsense and I didn't understand the appeal. Meanwhile, ever since, I keep seeing this band pop up on people's "favorite bands" lists (along with Beach House, another band I just don't understand.)

I heard "Tell 'Em" on XM radio the other day, liked it, and when I found out who it was, I was definitely surprised. This led me to listen to clips of the rest of the album's tracks on Amazon, and well, the jury's still out.

One thing that was clear is that the production on Treats is meant to cover an indie-pop sound with a grunge metal veneer. You can hear this in tracks like "Straight A's" and "Crown on the Ground," where the distortion has been so exaggerated that it's supposed to sound like your speakers are blown out. Frankly, it's not a sound trick I really enjoy at all. It also explains why, at Coachella, when I wasn't right under the tent but rather hearing Sleigh Bells' performance from some 100 feet away from the tent, it sounded so harsh. I wasn't able to hear any of the melody of the vocal or instrumentals - all that really reached me was the cacophonous noise.

At the end of the day, I do like a lot of the tracks - there is something interesting there with their heavy guitar, hip-hop beats, and dreamy youthful vocals. I'm not sure overall if this band has any staying power, because it seems like if all of the hard production was stripped away, the songs would be catchy, but ultimately fluffy. It's the noisy gimmick that makes them interesting, but at the same time, that gimmick makes the album not really an easy one to listen to from beginning to end, for me, because I don't like the intentionally lo-fi/distorted shtick in large amounts.

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