But Bitter Rivals isn’t all snarling cheerleader chants over sledgehammer power-chords. The focus has shifted away from Miller and towards Krauss; Miller’s guitar gives way to Krauss’ vocals more than ever, and Krauss herself opts for candy-coated superstar vocals in place of the sultry whispers and brash screams that were near ubiquitous in the band’s previous work. The new full and high vocals are much more tuneful, lending variety to Sleigh Bells’ once rather monotone sound.
These melodic tunes are most prevalent towards the end of the album. And indeed, it’s the less belligerent tracks, such as “To Hell With You” and “24,” that are the most memorable. In the former track, the kick pattern slows down, and there’s a marked sense of delicacy. In the latter, an airy riff parallels the soaring, clean vocals.
In Bitter Rivals, it sounds like the brawl from the previous two albums is finally ending. Early album tracks “Bitter Rivals” and “Sugarcane” don’t pull any punches, but soon enough, Krauss swoops in to kiss the wounds. Halfway through the album, “Young Legends”, arguably the most promising track on the album, demonstrates perfectly the evolution of Sleigh Bells’ sound, with its sing-song melodies floating over urgent, do-or-die synths. They might be walking away from the fight, but their knuckles are still burning.