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    Album Review

    From Sleigh Bells, a hopped-up ‘Jessica Rabbit’

    Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells.
    Sleigh Bells
    Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells.

    Sleigh Bells don’t play with ideas of pop as much as they explode them, delighting in the chaos that results not only from blowing things up but from putting the remaining pieces back together in unexpected, jarring ways. The contrast between Derek Miller’s super-size sonics and Alexis Krauss’s radio-ready lilt energized the duo’s first three albums, allowing them to occupy a spot in music at the overlap of spine-rattling noise rock and chart-ruling pop.

    On their fourth album, “Jessica Rabbit,” the pair tweak their formula ever so slightly. While the abrasive sounds that give Sleigh Bells’ music so much of their jolt are still present, “Jessica Rabbit” chops them up and re-collages them, giving them both greater brutality and better-defined beats. Krauss leans into her voice in a way that was only hinted at on previous Sleigh Bells albums, with full-throttle wails that add an extra bulwark against the often uneasy music surrounding her and the lyrics she sings.

    When Sleigh Bells do indulge their pop impulses, they do so in a way underscored by anxiety. “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold” has the sort of anthemic chorus that late-night drives are made for, with rat-tat-tat drums adding a dash of paranoia to the trip. The hyperactive “Baptism by Fire” recalls a particularly frenetic lullaby, its meticulously attuned beats pairing with the sing-song melody in a way that gives its slightly ominous chorus — “When your dream is made of/ Everything you’re afraid of” — an extra edge. “I Can Only Stare,” meanwhile, super-sizes the passion-drenched tour de forces that ruled the early-’80s pop-rock crossover world, with Krauss’s powerhouse vocal given extra oomph by the keyboards crowding around it.


    At times, “Jessica Rabbit” can overwhelm — its unexpected stylistic shifts and the bravado performances given by Krauss on even lighter tracks like the hazy “Torn Clean” are a document of an act that seems to be all in at all times. But by realizing the beauty that can come from chaos, Sleigh Bells have made an album that shines a harsh spotlight on the always-on clamor of 21st-century life — and the end result gleams.

    ESSENTIAL: “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold”

    Maura Johnston can be reached at