Brooklyn-based, pop duo Sleigh Bells was one of those bands with the world at its feet. Songs from their 2010 debut album Treats have several million plays on Spotify to this day, with “Rill Rill” currently at 18 million streams. They were receiving critical acclaim and became a “buzz band” — a term synonymous with short-lived fame.
However, much has changed and now, as the duo enters its eighth year as a band and their fourth studio album, Sleigh Bells keeps a relatively high profile, despite waning media interest.
Taking a few years off from the relentless recording of their first three albums seems to have hindered the band on its new album, Jessica Rabbit. Many tracks are disjointed, with overlapping sounds and vocals that sit uncomfortably, and instead of making something complete, it’s all sadly unsatisfying.
Album opener “It’s Just Us Now” exemplifies this discomfort, with a beat that is jarringly stop-start and hip-hop beats overlaying rough guitar riffs. The track doesn’t work as well as you’d hope — it’s like two individual songs were written and then pasted together, thus failing to capture the song’s potential.
A similar story can be found on “Throw Me Down the Stairs,” which is an angry song with odd interjections of ethereal noises and vocalist Alexis Krauss’s soft cooing. It doesn’t seem to work surrounded by the rest of the song and ultimately renders it forgettable.
This is sadly something that continues throughout the rest of the album. There are moments of pure brilliance, often carried by Krauss’s amazing vocal range and variety. “I Can Only Stare” is a definite standout for the album, with synths humming in the background and the vocals taking a forefront, while little in terms of guitar appears at all throughout the song. The tracks that lean toward a more vocally dominant sound are the songs that are the most likely to stick in the mind.
“Crucible” is another standout. It’s one of the only songs that manages to blend the experimental sounds and Krauss’s voice together, and it works brilliantly. It has a chirpy sampling that runs throughout, perfectly blending with the vocals and beats.
“Crucible” seems to be what the potential of this band is, but it’s only realized in a few moments, while a lot of the other songs on this album fall undeniably into a bland, noisy background. Some tracks are just shy of the two-minute mark, having little impact on the listener, and it’s just a confusing decision to have them included at all. Listening to the album as a whole leaves a disappointingly unsatisfying feeling of “it could have been better.”
There is nothing remotely generic about this album, which is something to be both applauded and considered part of the problem. Although definitely worth the listen, Jessica Rabbit fails to produce anything that might draw you back for a second listen, with only a few standout songs present.