By: Molly Smith
Powerful guitars, a bold nature, and an overall loudness create Sleigh Bells’ energetic sound, and even though title track, “Bitter Rivals” maintains this foundation, the remainder of Bitter Rivals is boring and streamlined in comparison to their older work. Many of the tracks sound too much the same, Alexis Krauss’ vocals are much too pop-y, and different pieces seem to be dropped in the middle of chaos without any purposeful execution.
Chanting, synths, and jarring instrumentals jump in your face after an acoustic introduction to first track, “Bitter Rivals” among the backdrop of barking dogs. There is a sense of togetherness in all of this mess though, as it holds together with a steady beat and anticipation. However, this cohesion is lost throughout the album and progressively becomes worse. During the third track, “Minnie,” transitions between the verses and choruses are choppy, and Krauss’ high pitches are almost distressing. A weird interlude is also just kind of stuck into this song. “Sing Like a Wire” is formulaic, and therefore doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The bridge to this track sounds like a 1990s computer booting up, and not in a cool way. Fortunately, a smooth transition brings us to “Young Legends”, but the song itself is uninteresting, the power is compromised, and Krauss takes on a role as an annoying pop star. This tendency continues on “Tiger Kit”, which simply doesn’t grab me. The vocals and instrumentals are least compatible here, and the final line, “make like a banana and split” is a high school colloquialism at best. “You Don’t Get Me Twice” also has a contradictory ending with little to no transition. As the album concludes with “Love Sick”, it sounds the least like the Sleigh Bells we know and love from 2010 album Treats, as it is a disappointing finish to a half hearted work.
By combining a sweet yet surprisingly abrasive vocalist with hard rock fundamentals, Sleigh Bells, at least in the past, have proven to their supportive and quirky audience that they have a special ability to make something beautiful out of chaos. Bitter Rivals is a bummer because its sloppy combinations and overall annoying texture.