If Sleigh Bells was like a Tootsie Pop, they’d be the hard candy exterior, hugging a gooey bubblegum interior— hiding a razor blade. Or rather, on Bitter Rivals, the Brooklyn duo’s third studio album, they’re the interplay of metal guitar, headstrong hip-hop beats, and sugary pop vocals.
Those unfamiliar with the ‘noise-pop’ group may be familiar with the whining guitars and fistful of noise that is “Crown on the Ground,” the Sleigh Bells track featured in the advertising campaign for Sofia Coppola’s summer film The Bling Ring. Band members Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss garnered a lot of positive attention with their freshman album Treats (2010), but somewhat less with follow-up release Reign of Terror (2012). Despite the sense of fun and energy they lost in their sophomore slump, they’ve redoubled their efforts in Bitter Rivals. Call it the sonic equivalent of downing a Jägerbomb.
There’s been a steady magnetism between pop and metal as of late—one hinted at by Rihanna’s latest haircuts, and backed up sonically by Kanye West on Yeezus. With Sleigh Bells, this connection is strengthened by the fact that Bitter Rivals was mixed by Andrew Dawson, who himself was credited for his work on Yeezus. And like Yeezus, Bitter Rivals proves that when metal and pop get together, the result is pure, unadulterated fun.
Sleigh Bells work their magic best when they intersect their slow, meandering melodies with more chaotic sounds. They did it on Treats standout “Rill Rill,” and they’ve done it again on Bitter Rivals’ standout “To Hell With You.” This track shares its spot at the top of the album with the totally belligerent “Sing Like a Wire,” which twists the opening three beats of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” into a stadium-filling banger.
There’s very little music out there that I wouldn’t feel comfortable listening to in the car with my parents—but this is one of those albums. Your parents won’t like this album, and neither will your roommate. But trust me on this one when I say you will.