CD Reviews


Sleigh Bells Treats (Mom & Pop Music)

Much anticipation accompanies this Brooklyn duo’s debut CD, and not without reason. Programmer Derek Miller cut his teeth as a guitarist with hard-core band Poison the Well before settling into a more synthetic, but no less aggressive, mode with newbie naïf-rapper Alexis Krauss. After posting stellar tracks on MySpace, the Bells earned praise from all the right people: Pitchfork, M.I.A. and, um, the Jonas Brothers. Still, Miller and Krauss bring enough uncorrupted, intriguing energy to their full-length effort that a backlash, should it even reach Strokes-like levels, will have little impact on what has been accomplished. Tracks such as “Riot Rhythm” and “Infinity Guitars” come ripping at you with needle-in-the-red ferocity, and Krauss’ ingénue-isms are tailored to Miller’s fractured, chromatic textures. Treats is another helping of electro-pop candy, sure, but it’s the genre’s most sinus-clearing example yet. ★★★☆☆


The National High Violet (4AD)

Frontman Matt Berninger has the whole Joy Division thing down, his low, dour tenor giving import to everything he sings, even if his lyrics tend toward the blatantly absurd (“I was carried to Ohio/in a swarm of bees,” he sings in “Bloodbuzz Ohio.”). Now that the Boss is a National fan and the Brooklyn indie band in turn covers Springsteen material (“Mansion on the Hill”), there was expectation that High Violet, the band’s first full-length in three years, would have narrative focus. It doesn’t, but that’s not what indie-rock is about. Even if you’ve never seen The National, you can hear the rustle of gin-stained three-piece suits in songs such as “Terrible Love,” where Berninger claims to be “walking with spiders.” Masters of mood (if little else), the band cuts a suave, sophisticated path through its cluttered, clunkier peers. ★★★★☆


The Black Keys Brothers (Nonesuch)

The gutter blues-punk duo Black Keys continues to broaden and deepen its sound with yet another album produced by famed mixer/DJ Danger Mouse. This time the influences range from Prince and The Revolution (opening track “Everlasting Light”) to Jackie Wilson (the gorgeous “Never Give You Up”). Boil it down, and what you have is a once-ferocious neo-garage act à la the White Stripes polishing its sound and broadening its appeal in order to reach NPR listeners. Which is great, because what that station needs more than anything is a funky cut such as “Black Mud” sliding into its usually reserved programming. So far it’s the best blues album this year and definitely a step forward and up for this acclaimed Akron, Ohio, band. Like every Black Keys album, though, you’ve got to play it really loud to get the full effect. ★★★★☆

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