Since they burst upon the scene in 2010 with their cheerleader-wields-machine gun aesthetic, Sleigh Bells’ songs have always been punctuated with an explosive, deafening wall of sound from guitarist Derek Miller and implacable swagger from vocalist Alexis Krauss.
That formula, however, seems destined to change for their upcoming (and still-untitled) fourth album. In place of the immediate pacing and cacophony of noise, Sleigh Bells have returned with byzantine song structures and hushed atmospherics for the three singles they’ve released so far to promote the new record.
The latest track, “Hyper Dark,” set’s Miller’s guitars to the far background, allowing Krauss’ breathy vocals to take center stage. The song keeps building to the expected point of explosion, a tension-based tactic the duo has employed for previous standout tracks like “Bitter Rivals,” “Leader of the Pack,” and “Infinity Guitars.” However, “Hyper Dark” never crests, as the guitars ebb away just as they seem poised to burst forth.
It’s a really melancholy song, and one that seems surprisingly vulnerable — an emotional trait that the uber-confident Krauss has never quite explored before. The more subdued approach could actually be a welcome change to Sleigh Bells’ live performances. While seeing the duo accompanied by their wall of amplifiers makes for an invigorating spectacle, Krauss’ vocals often get lost underneath the wail of Miller’s guitar histrionics. These new tracks could give her singing—long an underrated aspect of the group’s appeal—more prominence.
San Francisco fans will get a chance to see if that’s the case in November, when Sleigh Bells play at the Independent. Along with releasing “Hyper Dark” on Monday, the group announced a fall tour that includes a date at the San Francisco on November 15. Tickets for the show will go on sale Friday.
November 15, 2016
8pm, $25 (21+)