Sleigh Bells’ ‘Texis’ is stomping pop metal sensory overload

photo of the album Texis

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

The epitome of 2010s unbothered noise pop, Sleigh Bells have burned themselves into the minds of anyone fortunate enough to come across their early work as a barreling storm of electro-rock music. The duo, made up of elementary school teacher turned vocalist Alexis Krauss and heavy metal dabbling guitarist Derek Miller, is largely revered as the artist behind the most hip, renegade songs in countless teen movies from the 2010s — “Kids” and “Crown on the Ground” to name a few.

However, having taken a softer turn on its past two albums, the once thundering band seemed to have lost their way, sacrificing not only the quality of music but the unmatched energy so many had come to love. Released Sept. 10, Sleigh Bells’ fifth studio album, Texis, redeems the duo to former glory, catapulting the band back to the good old days of 10 years ago when they ruled the indie airwaves.

It’s clear from the start that the duo aims to ease Texis back into the vibe of its 2010 debut Treats, a demonic cheerleading squad chant maelstrom that would put the entire Bring It On film franchise to shame. “Aren’t you a little too old for rock and roll?” jokingly sings Krauss on “Sweet75,” the dynamic opener complete with thumping drums and heavy bass. The sharp guitar riffs coupled with saccharine vocals make for a jarring soundscape, but it’s one that longtime fans of Sleigh Bells will find comforting and familiar.

The gentle beat of “An Acre Lost” provides a brief respite from the barrage of “Sweet75,” pierced periodically throughout by pattering drums and occasionally frantic guitars. Purposefully never quite settling into a steady groove, the song keeps listeners on their toes, throwing them for loop after loop with each jolting note: Sleigh Bells’ specialty.

Texis is a smorgasbord of eclectic new sounds that transcend genres, rooting itself in the shocking yet undeniably catchy nature of Sleigh Bells’ early work. It doesn’t quite pack the same punch as Treats or Reign of Terror, but the album still has its own distinct charm in its curiosity and unpredictable song structure.

“I’m Not Down” is a perfect blend between bubbly pop and hardcore, a stunning composition of clashing genres that somehow manage to fill in each other’s gaps in the song. Instead of choosing to defer to disaffected teenager-esque yelling, Krauss’ adherence to more melodic vocals across the record suits the band better, but her softer vocals do lack the outright brazenness reminiscent of earlier experimental works. That being said, “I’m Not Down” is still beautiful in its own right, a way for Sleigh Bells to show that they can still take things down a notch while maintaining most of their vigor.

Staying true to the volatile nature of Texis, “Knowing” and “True Seekers” shift the album’s gears to softer ’80s beats, punctuating the music’s heavy electronic and hard rock direction with light breakdowns and a focus on melody. However, the songs are far from truly being considered “soft,” as the band still incorporates moments of rough guitar and thrashing drums every now and then. By merging this newfound sound with their old, tried and true formula, Sleigh Bells has triumphantly created yet another unique style.

Laden with experimental electronic sounds cut through by angry guitars, Texis is Sleigh Bells’ true comeback. While Texis sounds slightly more forced than Treats, one of the only other comparable albums in Sleigh Bells’ discography, Texis has an air of cheekiness as well as inquisitiveness. On Texis, the band evolves its sound while simultaneously leaning on its well-built, ferocious musical foundation. This not only makes the album more remarkably unusual, but it makes it more palatable in its venture into vaguely familiar — but nonetheless refreshing — territory.

Don’t let the unassuming old photo of Krauss on the album’s cover fool you — Sleigh Bells have yet another trick up their sleeve with Texis.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.