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‘Jessica Rabbit’ review: Sleigh Bells ring a little lighter

Sleigh Bells'

Sleigh Bells' "Jessica Rabbit" is the duo's latest. Credit: Tom Clean

SLEIGH BELLS

“Jessica Rabbit”

GRADE B

BOTTOM LINE Intense, varied sound from Brooklyn noisemakers could use more pop.

Sleigh Bells, the Brooklyn duo famous for 2010’s “Treats,” which matched cheerleader chanting with electronic-dance-music ambience and death-metal intensity, communicates a lot on the first 10 seconds of its fourth album — five gigantic guitar-in-the-machine blasts, a silent pause and finally a lighter bleat from a soothing synthesizer. The band seems to be saying: “We’re as hard as ever, but we’ve learned to lighten the moods.”

That’s a positive development from producer and songwriter Derek Miller, but he and singer Alexis Krauss try so hard to achieve their production goals that they forget to throw in the breezy energy that made their early songs so much fun. The sound of “Jessica Rabbit” is a combination of apocalyptically booming and meticulously arranged. So you notice noisy things like the shotgun drum-machine blasts in “As If” and the music-box opening of “I Can’t Stand You Anymore,” and pop things like how pretty Krauss sounds when she’s attacking the whispery lyrics in “Hyper Dark” and how rich her voice has become during the “oh oh ohs” in “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold.”

These qualities are so prominent that it’s initially possible to miss the relentless darkness of the lyrics: “mostly OK / but I’m bleeding profusely / mostly OK / but only on Tuesdays,” “[expletive] people / I’ve had it up to here,” / “I think we have a problem,” “tomorrow / who knows?” Krauss’ shriek at the beginning of “Crucible” sounds more terrified than joyous.

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