Treats, the full-length debut of Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells, was birthed into a post-audiophile world. The group’s guitarist-songwriter-producer Derek Miller could’ve reacted to this fact by crafting a meticulous, highly orchestrated LP along the lines of acclaimed efforts by his borough-mates Grizzly Bear or Dirty Projectors. Instead, Miller flipped the script. Apparently he feels that if even the most fervent Sleigh Bells fan is going to bump Treats on tinny laptop speakers rather than a decent stereo system, it might as well sound like it’s pushing into the red either way.
The blown-out sonics of tracks like “Tell ’Em” and “Treats” trade on some of the last three decades of pop music’s most noxious textures—harmonized, Joe Satriani-esque guitar heroics; dark stabs of synthesizers lifted from crunk and snap—but those sounds are transformed into undeniable hooks when filtered through Miller’s songwriting smarts and laid under the deceptively sweet vocals of Alexis Krauss. Sleigh Bells comes from the same lineage of trashy, intelligent fun as The B-52’s, and Krauss approximates both Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson on “Infinity Guitars,” alternating between punky abrasion and airy interludes.
Krauss and Miller immediately reach for the jugular on nearly every track of Treats. The trick could wear thin quickly, but the tracks that previously made the Internet rounds as demos sound just as vital here as they did on first download. Perhaps the key to the duo’s longevity is “Rill Rill,” an enchanting curveball where Krauss taps into her aloof Debbie Harry side while bouncing along a Funkadelic sample. The song posits Miller as a Dumpster-diving version of Dust Brothers, and its loping beat will have heads nodding whether it’s kicking out of a ghetto blaster or a cell phone.