Bitter Rivals - Sleigh Bells
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 26 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 26
  2. Negative: 3 out of 26

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  1. 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.)
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  2. Dec 9, 2013
    9
    Call this their 'Rocket to Russia.' It's Sleigh Bells' tightest and most carefully conceived record, period, a carefully honed consolidation of the first two. But anyone who says it's more of the same hasn't listened hard enough to the new abundance of sure-fire hooks (Alexis is the MVP this time around) and some damn sharp lyrics, plus fresh R&B grooves and guitar textures. Anyone who says it's unfocused and scattered has got to be kidding (shout out to Pitchfork's ridiculous review). This record isn't about the juxtaposition of pop and noise so much as it's a great integration of the two in a way that isn't awkward or clumsy in the least. For people who like their candy hard. Expand
  3. Oct 13, 2013
    5
    Dipping slightly into more 80s keyboards and more distinct vocals are the only change here. They were a great novelty band but I'm getting bored with them now. They need to better think out their next move coz this stuff is fading faster than hair-dye.
  4. 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. Expand
  5. 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? Expand
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. 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]
  2. 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]
  3. Oct 16, 2013
    70
    Ultimately, Bitter Rivals offers the comfort of familiarity while being different enough to avoid breeding contempt.