Sleigh Bells quickly painted themselves into a corner with 2010 debut Treats. Armed with the unabashedly bombastic sound of Derek Miller's noise rock riffs and Alexis Krauss's sugary-sweet pop delivery, the dynamic duo struck a balanced sound of noise-pop perfection. Since then, it's been an experiment of sorts for the pair to try and uphold a signature sound while expanding beyond its very narrow confines. Subsequent release Reign of Terror found the group reaching for those pop hooks while focussing more on songwriting, yielding mixed results. Their latest effort, Bitter Rivals, continues this attempt. With Watch the Throne and Yeezus producer Andrew Dawson at the production helm, Sleigh Bells are definitely approaching pop hooks from a hip-hip angle while still maintaining Miller's deafening riffs. "You Don't Get Me Twice" is a prime example, with a heavy, snapping beat accented by guitars. Ultimately, it, as well as some other songs on Bitter Rivals, feels congested, the elements combating one another rather than coalescing. "Sing Like A Wire" is overtly abrasive, with Krauss's whispered vocals feeling uncomfortably out of place. Additionally, her cheerleader chants are wearing thin three records in. On occasion, a track like "Young Legends" gets it just right, but those moments are few and far between. Sleigh Bells should be applauded for their attempts to move beyond their simplistic formula, but the growing pains are evident and awkward to listen to.
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