Sleigh Bells: “Comeback Kid”
One of the things you find out quickly when starting out as a music blogger is that there is intense competition to be the first to break some new group, or be the first to feature the latest album by an already broken but still-considered-hip group. And you can either bow to the pressure and spend all your free time keeping up with the latest releases — and believe me, it takes either a lot of time or a lot of music writers working for your blog to keep up with all of it — or you can say, “the hell with it — I’ll get around to this or that song or group when I get to it.” And if you want to stay sane and have a life that’s in perspective, as a solo blogger that second option is really your only way to go.
Fortunately, Reselect.com isn’t usually about the “latest and greatest” — it’s just about the greatest (and often, about being able to stand the test of time). But since I started New Music Monday, I made a conscious decision to return in some small part to the land of new releases, an area that I once felt like I had time to dominate — back in the pre-album-download days. But nowadays, being a parent and all, and with more releases to keep up with than ever thanks to being able to release albums on the Web, there’s only so much I can do. So I live with the fact that I won’t be your #1 source for newest releases. And hope that you’ll be able to make do with finding fairly new music here once a week that actually still sounds good a few months later because it actually is good, not just because it’s “good enough” to get some immediate attention.
Why, Dave, are you blathering on so?, I hear you asking. Because last year’s sophomore album from Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror, released in last February, is a prime example of the feeding frenzy that often happens in the music blogosphere … or blogiverse … or blogarithmic scale (no, I just made that one up). When tracks from Reign of Bells started to hit the scene, you couldn’t find a music blog devoted to new releases that wasn’t trying to better the next blog in its coverage of the album, with seemingly every blog featuring a Sleigh Bells song during that first month. It all got a bit, well, samey, and it was hard not to feel a little backlash due to the overhype. (And this is a common syndrome, I should add, not at all an unusual circumstance.)
A year down the road, however, it’s easier to listen without all the associated clatter, and hear whether or not the album is actually any good. And “clatter” is actually a very appropriate word in this case, because Sleigh Bells like clatter in their music. They throw everything into their songs sometimes, to the point where it’s difficult to hear the song at first. But the more you listen, the more it starts to sort itself out and make aural sense — thanks in large part to singer Alexis Krauss’s strong vocals. The overall effect of their music is the metal shredding of Guns ‘n’ Roses (listen to this album’s “You Lost Me”) tossed together with the atmospherics of the Cocteau Twins and the cheerleading of The Go! Team (another music blog fav) and blended on the “high” setting. I think that ultimately Sleigh Bells will be looked back as some sort of sign of the musical times of the early 2000-teens, and one of those bands that is more influential than commercially successful. But I mean that as a compliment — they’ve definitely forged a different sound, and it works most effectively on “Comeback Kid,” the first single they released from Reign of Terror. “Comeback Kid” showcases their cascades of sound, but brings with it a propulsive beat that doesn’t get lost, and one of the album’s stronger vocal melodies, pulling away from the noise-collage enough to not get lost. For the uninitiated, it might sound a bit like an assault, but give it a few more tries and it will seem less so. And more like a groundbreaking band refining its sound.