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The musical duo Sleigh Bells makes music that is very noisy and very fun. Band members Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller create hard-edged pop songs influenced by hip-hop, heavy metal, marching band rhythms and stadium chants. Our music critic Will Hermes says their third album, "Bitter Rivals," both leans on what has worked for them in the past and pushes their boundaries.


WILL HERMES, BYLINE: Formula can be a blessing and a curse. The Ramones had one that was so great they were kind of trapped by it. Sleigh Bells' formula is breathtakingly great, too, and their third record reconfirms it.


HERMES: The group is still defined by brutal stomp-clap rhythms, guitar noise, over-modulated shout-singing and Alexis Krauss' suburban, tough-girl persona. But this is album three, and on it, you can hear Sleigh Bells fighting against their formula. It's a positive development. There's more melody, more singing, a lot of acoustic guitar, although the instrument takes a beating, and some impressively bulked-up '90s-style R&B.


HERMES: Even more startling are the down-tempo songs, which somehow manage to sound both sweet and menacing, like this one, titled "To Hell With You." It sounds like a '60s girl group conducting military drills.


HERMES: The upshot of this record is Sleigh Bells trying to figure out how to make their subversive pop music actually pop without losing the subversiveness. It's a fine line and they are thoroughly stomping on it.


SIEGEL: The new album by Sleigh Bells is called "Bitter Rivals." Our critic, Will Hermes is author of the book, "Love Goes To Buildings On Fire."


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SIEGEL: And to follow our program and us on Twitter, I'm Robert Siegel @RSeigel47.

BLOCK: I'm @NPRMelissaBlock. Our co-host Audie Cornish is @NPRAudie.

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