Sleigh Bells’ bone-pulverizing, speaker-imploding sound was born in the realization by band member Derek Miller that hip-hop could be just as loud as the hardcore music he made in Poison the Well before he quit that band. That realization is already well-known to anyone with a decent set of speakers and a familiarity with Ruff Ryders-era Swizz Beatz. In indie rock, though, this is akin to Albert Einstein discovering the Theory of Relativity while riding the train. Miller’s realization lead the young group — which broke out at CMJ 2009 — to record the excellent Treats, an act of sonic terrorism that comes on like a giant flame painted on a Ferrari. This might not be the year’s “best” album, but it seems as though you should get ready to hear this everywhere.
Sleigh Bells’ formula is so simple it’s hard to believe no one tried this before. They take megaton riffs and drums that sound like imploding stadiums, push them into the red to an uncomfortable degree, and have lead singer Alexis Krauss chant like a cheerleader having an embarrassingly public meltdown on top. The closest analog is Crystal Castles — if you’re reaching — but no other group has been able to mix this heavy electro with real-deal pop chops. There are hooks everywhere: If you can stand it, you can find them in the Chernobyl-ing synths, Krauss’s taunts and Miller’s sliding guitars.
The singles that rocketed Sleigh Bells to blog stardom are all here on Treats, from the collision-alarm bombast of “Kids” (originally titled “Beach Girls” in demo form), the drum-line bounce of “Infinity Guitars,” the delirious “A/B Machines,” masterpiece single “Crown on the Ground,” and the still Funkadelic-sampling “Rill Rill” (originally titled “Ring Ring”). The marked difference is that the songs were actually recorded in a real studio; on the demos, the real terror was caused on your speakers due to feedback, but the versions on Treats explode due to serious volume. The studio environment also allowed for some nuance to creep into Sleigh Bells’ aural deconstruction, as “Rill Rill,” “Infinity Guitars” (which has sprouted a seventh gear here) and new tracks “Tell ‘Em,” the title track and “Riot Rhythm” can crescendo to carpet-bombing levels.
The best part of Treats is that it makes you rethink the possibilities of this kind of music. It is possible for a former girl-group member and a former hardcore guitarist to get together to make an album that is more daring and more fun than anything you’ll likely hear on Top 40 radio this year.