Music News & Reviews

CD reviews: Sleigh Bells and Lyle Lovett

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Sleigh Bells

Reign of Terror | 

On Sleigh Bells' delectable 2010 debut Treats, the car-crash pileup of Derek E. Miller's overdriven guitars and gargantuan drum-machine beats laid a violently explosive foundation for charismatic front woman Alexis Krauss to coo over sweetly. It worked so well, in part, because there were discernible melodies beneath the maelstrom of noise. For the most part, that's still true on Reign of Terror, though Miller's production strategy of intensely compressing the sound before turning it all the way up to 11 can create barriers to entry quite difficult to overcome, as on the well-titled You Lost Me. And while the whole of Reign of Terror gleefully blasts away with a wall of noise to make the Jesus & Mary Chain blush, the concise, essentially pop architecture of the arrangements turns initially abrasive tunes like Comeback Kid and Road to Hell into earworms.

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Lyle Lovett

Release Me | 

Iconoclastic Texas song stylist Lyle Lovett has spent his entire career recording for one record label, and with this, his 11th album, he fulfills his contract and sets himself free. That's the joke of the title track — the often-recorded Engelbert Humperdinck and Esther Phillips hit, here done as a duet with k.d. lang. The joke extends to the cover photo, which features the dapper, high-haired troubadour wound tightly with rope as if he were a damsel in distress. The contents of the 14-song album are by no means a joke, but it is slight by Lovett's standards, including only four originals, and incorporating a three-song Christmas EP he released last year. Lovett is an impeccable craftsman and an underrated singer; it's satisfying to hear him have a go at songs by Chuck Berry, Townes Van Zandt and Martin Luther (!) — the Protestant hymn Keep Us Steadfast. But mainly Release Me whets the appetite for more of the finally-free Lovett's new material.

Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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