Ratatat and Sleigh Bells

LP4, and Treats (XL)

Phases & Stages

Sleigh Bells

Treats (N.E.E.T. Recordings)


LP4 (XL)

Never mind the hype. Sleigh Bells offers little more than a Barbie version of M.I.A., fitting given that the Brooklyn duo signed to the controversial rapper's vanity label. Producer Derek Miller crafts aggressive instrumentals with street-sweeper riffs and dirty house beats, as if trying to single-handedly end the loudness wars, while Alexis Krauss cheers from the sidelines with bubblegum vocals. It's the Ting Tings amplified past 11, and the two never stray far from the formula. There are a few cheap thrills on their debut, most notably the drum line siren alarm "Riot Rhythm," stadium-guitar march of "Tell 'Em," and more subdued "Rill Rill," which samples Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That" to the same effect as M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," but such moments fade faster than a sugar rush. Strip away the distortion and vocals, and you land in the same neighborhood as fellow Brooklyn twopiece Ratatat. LP4 is every bit as unimaginative as its title suggests, picking up quite literally where 2008's lackluster LP3 left off. "Mahalo" was even issued as the B-side to "Shiller," while "Grape Juice City," with its 8-bit arpeggios and bongo percussion, could pass for a remix of "Mirando," not unlike the slow-motion jam "We Can't Be Stopped." Mike Stroud and Evan Mast have become too complacent within their signature sound, an increasingly fractured mosaic of slippery glam harmonies, harpsichord, and electro-pop beats ("Drugs" et al.). Ratatat excels in the context of Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon, but LP4 ultimately is an unnecessary sequel and box office cash-in.

(Both) **

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