Arts & Culture

Sleigh Bells’ new album ‘Jessica Rabbit’ evokes uncertainty

Discombobulated content defies categorization, creates confusion, reflects scattered emotions

By
Arts & Culture Editor
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

There’s a period of time between Halloween and Thanksgiving where uncertainty surrounding decorations leaves homes with half-rotting pumpkins on the porch steps and blow-up turkeys in the front yard. It doesn’t help that the weather brings overcast clouds in the morning, a bright burning sun in the afternoon and then a sharp, crisp chill to end the night as the sun sets at 4 p.m. This ultimately begs the question: What season even is it?

Sleigh Bells’ latest album, “Jessica Rabbit,” released Friday, contains a disjointed, multifaceted sound that begs a similar question: What genre even is it? The band opens up with “It’s Just Us Now,” immediately confusing the listener. The dark, heavy instrumentals signal that Sleigh Bells is a hard rock band, but as soon as the apparent genre maintains some consistency, the song turns to a softer, lighter sound and in the same fashion, turns back to heavy rock in an instant.

Along with the unpredictable sound are awkward splices that give the impression that the band revisited the song months or years after initially recording it, confused by its own musical goals and adding in final elements to lengthen the overall song. This theme of confusion continues throughout the entire album, particularly on tracks like “I Can’t Stand You Anymore,” “As If” and “Crucible.”

The disjointed sound does make sense in some of the band’s tracks. In “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold,” the mixup of genres works well and gives the overall track a balance between light, softer instrumentals and a backdrop of darker lyrics. “Unlimited Dark Paths” and “Baptism by Fire” immediately hook the listener. The intros to both tracks allow some sense of certainty, mixing instrumentals to create an inviting, intriguing sound. While many tracks on the album are often too aggressive and off-putting at the start, “Unlimited Dark Paths” and “Baptism by Fire” engage directly with the listener with cool beats and innovative lyrics.

The track where innovation reaches its peak is “Rule Number One.” The opening stanza alludes to “The Wizard of Oz,” with the lyrics “Two tornadoes touch down in Kansas / Instinct takes over, instinct commands us.” The listener is hooked, yet the song does not continue along this catastrophic, magical theme. Lead singer Alexis Krauss throws in lyrics that are confusing but humorous. She sings the refrain “Poprocks and coke make your head explode,” and a minute or so later, “Drinking lemonade spinning like a ceiling fan / So haunting, so confusing / Ice cream is goose, Linus and Lucy.” The purpose of the track is to create a hodgepodge of sentiments and thoughts, like a real snapshot of a person’s thought process at any given moment in time.

Sleigh Bells expertly depicts the ever-changing sentiments and thoughts of a given person. No one is ever always happy or always angry. There are moments of joy and moments of utter despair. “Jessica Rabbit” perfectly captures the nature of the human experience. The album is purposefully crafted to bring confusion to the listener because there are never clear-cut answers to any problem in life. “Jessica Rabbit” is one of the most innovative, genuine albums of the year. While it may not include consistency, it embraces truth and uncertainty.