Bitter Rivals - Sleigh Bells
Metascore
70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27
  1. 91
    It's all still loud and lovely, but with a fresh dose of dynamism. [11 Oct 2013, p.72]
  2. Oct 8, 2013
    87
    Creative movements make Bitter Rivals an exciting and powerful record, because it reminds the listener that sometimes it’s okay to follow an idea into unexpected territory and shake things up.
  3. 83
    What the band still manages to do so well is use aural snippets from a range of contrasting but conventional sources, weave them together and still sound like no one else out there.
  4. Nov 22, 2013
    80
    Breathlessly current in its maxed-out production, but also properly robust, Bitter Rivals should turn Sleigh Bells into serious contenders. [Dec 2013, p.104]
  5. Oct 9, 2013
    80
    While 2010 debut Treats was an exotic, overdubbed roar (Big Black-meets-the-Waitresses for people who give a shit about those references), and 2012's Reign of Terror winked through a heavy heart at Mutt Lange's scorched-earth sound field, Bitter Rivals is sly and sleek.
  6. Oct 3, 2013
    80
    Krauss is on delicious vocal form throughout, sounding both as fierce and feminine as ever, matching cutting lyrics with sounds so girlish they almost risk being cutesy.
  7. Oct 8, 2013
    75
    Sleigh Bells is simultaneously at its best (and for some, its most annoying) when it taps directly and forcefully into the very heightened emotions of high school.
  8. Nov 27, 2013
    70
    More often than not throughout the careening Bitter Rivals, there's clarity where there was disturbance, melody where there was once dissonance, and more nuanced vocal hooks and ditzy sonic flips than appeared on Sleigh Bells' first two records combined. [No. 104, p.51]
  9. Oct 16, 2013
    70
    Ultimately, Bitter Rivals offers the comfort of familiarity while being different enough to avoid breeding contempt.
  10. Oct 8, 2013
    70
    On their third album, the schoolyard chants are snarkier and the ooey-gooey melodies are sweeter.
  11. Oct 8, 2013
    70
    For now it’s still deliciously entertaining.
  12. Oct 8, 2013
    70
    Bitter Rivals probably isn’t going to top Treats on anyone’s list of favorite Sleigh Bells albums, but it at least shows that Miller and Krauss are interested in branching out sonically.
  13. 70
    This third album is faithful to the band’s idea, but toned down.
  14. Bitter Rivals is their toughest and most focused work yet. It’s also their poppiest, which is very much a good thing.
  15. Oct 7, 2013
    70
    Sleigh Bells' studies in contrasts aren't shocking anymore, but the fact that they sound more natural on Bitter Rivals makes this some of their most enjoyable music since Treats.
  16. Oct 3, 2013
    70
    Sleigh Bells might have got a little softer on us, but they haven’t lost their charm.
  17. 70
    Bitter Rivals' more diffuse nature seems to have prevented them from impressing their personality on their music in quite the same manner; it’s difficult to rate it as highly as a result, but this remains a solid effort.
  18. Oct 11, 2013
    63
    Throughout the album, you get the sense that Krauss is doing stuff she’s been waiting for years to try out, and that appears to have pushed Miller into fresh territory as well.
  19. Oct 7, 2013
    60
    Ultimately, Bitter Rivals is a mish-mosh of songs: some good, some of high quality though tempered by and succumbing to poppiness, and some that shouldn’t have made the final cut.
  20. 60
    If you’ve long hoped for a more mainstream direction and always wanted to hear just how sweet a singer Krauss is, Bitter Rivals could be your favorite Sleigh Bells yet. But if you’re wishing they could’ve evolved in a way that didn’t involve quite so many ballads and especially not at the expense of what made Sleigh Bells so great, this might not be as essential as you presumed it would be.
  21. Oct 3, 2013
    60
    It's the airier, less belligerent songs that prove most memorable.
  22. Oct 8, 2013
    59
    Bitter Rivals too often feels like a cheap thrill ride, firing on all cylinders but without any grand design.
  23. Oct 10, 2013
    55
    With Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells haven't quite hit all the targets they're aiming for.
  24. Oct 15, 2013
    50
    While "24" might be the best song Sleigh Bells have penned to date.... The rest of the album doesn't fare so well, and like the proverbial Potemkin village, its bravado is illusory, its songs precarious, one-dimensional façades that sag under anything more than a passing listen.
  25. Oct 8, 2013
    50
    It’s the rare number not bracketed by abrasively chintzy guitar noise meant to read as “rawk,” shudder-inducing synths, and jarring percussive machinery.
  26. Oct 4, 2013
    50
    Sleigh Bells should be applauded for their attempts to move beyond their simplistic formula, but the growing pains are evident and awkward to listen to.
  27. 40
    Bitter Rivals could be explained as playing to Sleigh Bells’ strengths, but mostly it gets stuck in the weaker aspects of their previous albums, busying up the mercifully brief tracks with unnecessary filler, and definitively showing the dangers of nostalgia taken too far, with nu metal serving as a warning for pop punk, and freestyle, and whatever else might next resurface.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 27 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 5
  2. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. Oct 8, 2013
    7
    With Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells exhibit an affinity for pop music as well as 80's-era R&B. While there are still moments of glee-filled, rock-out ecstasy like before, bright synths and sunny melodies are favored this time around, which will definitely divide fans (old and new). But if you are willing to accept that this is Sleigh Bells in pop territory, you will see that Bitter Rivals proves to be a catchy, energizing, and entertaining 30 minutes of pop rock bliss. Full Review »
  2. Oct 8, 2013
    7
    It's still the good ol' Sleigh Bells, and some moments on Bitter Rivals are among their best, but as an album it's as quick and pleasant as a hit in the head its flow is just too fast, songs seem to end in their middle and overall, it ends before you notice it all began. It's really fun to listen, but not very rewarding it would greatly benefit from more studio time. I know they wanted to do it fast, but was it worth it? Full Review »
  3. Jan 1, 2014
    8
    Bitter Rivals is not only a solid development in Sleigh Bells' sound, but in my opinion their best album to date. Admittedly I had my own little problems with their first 2 albums, namely that Treats tended to bleed together from track to track & Reign of Terror (despite greatly improved songwriting) sometimes dragged out its song lengths longer than they needed to be. But on Bitter Rivals I think they basically took the best traits of both albums & mashed them together, while adding a couple new ingredients to the mix. Like Treats, the songs are extremely straightforward & to-the-point, with no time for meandering or over-repetition. But like Reign of Terror the songs individually are very well-written, with a lot of attention being paid to production & melody & even throwing in some more instrumentation in the form of synths or layered backing vocals. The title track is a pretty clear representation of what you're gonna hear, despite the awkward acoustic intro that might take a while to grow on you. Bitter Rivals is also home to a ton of catchy, bombastic, arena-ready choruses that aren't afraid of getting over-the-top in the vocal delivery, namely on “Minnie” & “Sing Like a Wire”. On the other side of the coin though, like on Reign of Terror there are some equally rewarding softer moments like on “Young Legends”, “To Hell with You” & “Love Sick” that with slightly different production could've passed as lost 80's electro-pop power ballads. There are also some of the best vocal performances & most diverse instrumentation & songwriting approaches of Sleigh Bells' discography thus far on this album. I'll admit that there are a couple tracks that didn't really do anything special for me (which is admittedly a pretty big deal for a 10-song 30-minute album) but they more blended in with the formula than anything else, and it didn't really detract from the album listen as a whole, which is a great one. They basically did what a one-style band/artist is supposed to do: keeping it similar while adding interesting new stuff here & there. If you were turned off by them before, this isn't gonna convince you otherwise. But if you're a fan of Sleigh Bells on either of the previous albums, I can't see any reason why you wouldn't like this.

    Top 5 tracks: Sing Like a Wire, Minnie, Tiger Kit, Bitter Rivals, To Hell with You
    Score: 83/100
    (For a longer more in-depth review go to my Facebook page That Non-Elitist Music Fan.)
    Full Review »