The gap between the release of Jessica Rabbit and Sleigh Bells’ last release, Bitter Rivals, spans three years, which oddly enough, is the same timespan under which their first three albums were released. With less-than-enthusiastic reviews surrounding Bitter Rivals’ rushed release, the three-year gap seemed imperative for Sleigh Bells’ fourth record. The noise-pop duo has maintained their distinct sound and name throughout the years, albeit, in a multitude of ways; Treats was the anthemic record for the brattiest of high school athletes and cool kids alike; Reign of Terror showed off guitarist Derek Miller’s songwriting abilities as well as the duo’s ability to create a heavy and atmospheric record reminiscent of stadium rock; and Bitter Rivals pushed the duo on the brink of breaching the full-on cheery-pop genre that vocalist Alexis Krauss’ vocals loan themselves to. Jessica Rabbit is the Sleigh Bells album that no one expected, but everyone, fan or not, needs. The album and its title, inspired by Miller’s childhood fascination with the animated femme fatale from the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, concerns the themes of loss and disappointment, which manage to make their way onto each track, albeit in different ways.
Spanning forty-three minutes, Jessica Rabbit earns the title of being Sleigh Bells’ lengthiest release to date. The opening track “It’s Just Us Now” is appropriately titled so, for it combines all of the elements Sleigh Bells seems to throw at listeners in often random scatters in other places on the record. With the thundering guitar riffs and lack of a verse-to-chorus transition that listeners will love to hate or hate to love, the track makes for a commanding listen. “Torn Clean” acts as the first interlude, and is also the name of the duo’s self-formed record label through which Jessica Rabbit was released, and marks their departure from previous label, Mom + Pop. Following the ethereal tone of “Torn Clean” is “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold,” which opens with the tinkling of a piano before evolving into a passionate, electropop jam. Both Miller and Krauss’ songwriting abilities take much of the spotlight on Jessica Rabbit, which is a refreshing decision, and invites listeners to ponder some of the darker themes, such as the track “Rule Number One” in which Krauss ends the song by yelling “bought a rifle, took it home / put it in the corner of your closet / but it’s not on your mind yet” over a thundering outro. Jessica Rabbit also manages to be one of the duo’s most experimental releases, showcased on standout track “I Can Only Stare.” The track switches the focus from guitar to beat-heavy territory, and masterfully displays Krauss’ vocal capabilities in a powerful anthem about heartbreak and disappointment.
Jessica Rabbit ultimately serves its intended purpose: maintaining the hype for Sleigh Bells. Unlike any of their previous releases, the album feels very narrative-heavy and with each listen, there is something new and thrilling to find that one may have skipped over before. Sleigh Bells has always run the risk of becoming taken for granted, something that often spells doom for the future of any musician or group, but Jessica Rabbit is the record that is imperative for listeners or fans anywhere, that revives the very essence of Sleigh Bells: the delightful mixture of noise-pop and industrial-rock packaged and ready for maximum volume.
Recommended If You Like: Sky Ferreira, M.I.A., Cults, Dum Dum Girls
Recommended Tracks: 1 (It’s Just Us Now), 3 (Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold), 5 (Crucible), 7 (I Can Only Stare), 11 (Rule Number One), 13 (Hyper Dark)
Do Not Play: 4, 8, 9, 14
Written by Andrew Chavez on 02/15/2017