Sleigh Bells ‘Bitter Rivals’ Disappoints

Layered guitars? Sassy vocals? Must be the new Sleigh Bells album. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Sleigh Bells consists of Alexis Krauss (vocalist) and Derek Miller (guitarist/producer) who formed in New York. The band combines pop and loud, grungy guitar rhythms. Today marks the release of their third album, “Bitter Rivals.”

“Bitter Rivals” begins with the single also titled “Bitter Rivals” and it begins slow with snapping fingers in the background before the heavy guitars Sleigh Bells are known for drop and Alexis Krauss battles the sound with her voice. Her voice is usually barely heard over the music but the vocals are raised in this track.

“You are my bitter rival and I need you for survival” she sings for the chorus with only finger-snapping in the background, and it is a nice change in contrast to the loudness of the rest of the song.

“Sugarcane” pushes back the vocals once again and reminds listeners very clearly of many songs from their last album “Reign of Terror.” It’s very typical of their style and nothing really makes it stand out.

“Minnie” has an extremely loud chorus that repeats, “God save you, I’m a demon heartbreaker, not a loser. Minnie, real hard. Minnie, real hard.” The song’s rhythm is so catchy that listeners won’t even care that the lyrics don’t seem to make sense.

“Sing Like A Wire” sounds very different from the rest so far because it starts out very quickly and includes riffs not used in all the songs. At points, Krauss is almost whispering “Sing like a wire” before the music picks up and she begins to shout over it. The listener won’t lose interest after multiple listens.

“Young Legends” is more pop influenced and at times almost resembles a few older Britney Spears’ songs while talking about how “Young legends die all the time,” something which has often been true in music history.

“Tiger Kit” has the most interesting lyrics on the album. Krauss sings “You’re gonna jump, like a detour, in front of all of these people. Oh, how sorry life is, like a Hollywood sequel.” However, there isn’t anything significant about it that they haven’t done before and it’s a song listeners will likely skip over on their first listen of the album.

“You Don’t Get Me Twice” talks about a search for the American Dream and has parts where Krauss’ voice is high-pitched and shrill in the background, which doesn’t add anything to the song but serves as a kind of distraction. It seemed like an attempt just to switch up their sound but doesn’t work well for them.

“To Hell With You” turns a trip to hell into a dreamy, romantic getaway with this more pop-influenced, ethereal song saying “I’ll go to hell with you, here’s the proof.”

“24” is another slower, dreamy song whose true value comes through in the instrumentals between verses. It seems as though the song would be better off without the vocals in this case.

“Love Sick” is the only song on the album that stands out against Sleigh Bells’ typical sound. It seems to tap into both the styles of the Spice Girls mixed with Charli XCX for an airy, slow pop song.

Although it does include some of the heavy guitar riffs they are downplayed in the chorus and the majority of the song carries a peaceful tone.

Overall, “Bitter Rivals” is exactly what Sleigh Bells’ fans already know and love but it lacks a catchy new single like past hits  “Rill Rill” and “Comeback Kid.”

In “Reign of Terror,” they downplayed the guitars and upped the vocals since their first album “Treats” was uniquely heavy with guitars and Krauss was normally at almost a whisper. In “Bitter Rivals,” it seems as though the members of the band themselves are confused about where their sound is going next so it makes for a disappointing listen.

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