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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Is For Tunes: The Black Keys


I love how dirty The Black Keys can get, and Brothers, their new album, is gritty in the best way. It sounds like a bottle of bourbon dropped in mud, kicked in dust, and then thrown through a dive bar window. To put it in sonic terms, it’s reminiscent of times when blues had to be played loud just to be heard over moonshine drunks at backwoods speakeasies, or when distortion was created by inchoate amplification technology and broken speaker cones held in place by wadded up newspaper. Yep, The Black Keys are a band for all of who were not fortunate enough to be born in time to witness the inception of great blues careers the likes of Robert Johnson, Ike Turner, and Buddy Guy. Does Dan Auerbach sound like he sold his soul to the devil for guitar chops? Or, am I just prone to waxing overly romantic? Probably the latter.

Still, Brothers is such a solid album. Every track hits hard with absolutely no apologies, and drips with soul. It comes out May 18th, and I simply cannot urge you enough to pick up a copy. The friction of the buzzed out vocals and electric guitar smokes. Honestly, I find this album really hot, hot like sex for my ears. Here are some track highlights to seduce you. Next Girl, the second single, sets yearning vocals to signature sparse drums and dirty, I mean down and dirty, riffs. Tighten Up, the first single, sounds nothing like the Archie Bell & The Drell’s of the same title. This disappointed me until Danger Mouse’s production came clearly through. Heavy on the rhythm, Howlin’ For You demands clapping and stomping. The instrumental Black Mud keeps things interesting by getting a little psychedelic with guitar stylings a la Hendrix. Too Afraid To Love and Ten Cent Pistol are the songs that keep getting stuck in my head thanks largely to the lyrics for the former, and the chorus of the latter. The Go Getter is one of the songs that particularly showcases the strength of Auerbach’s vocals with intonations bordering on early funk. Basically, Brothers draws from all my favorite genres and fuses them into something entirely belonging to The Black Keys.

As I’ve mentioned on here before, two-member bands fascinate me. When done right they have such fantastic versatility. They can be blatantly bare bones, or they can maximize effects, looping, and dynamics to sound infinitely more full. The Black Keys have proven their talent by exploiting this duality to its utter advantage. As their sixth album, Brothers proves once again that The Black Keys deserve their lasting acclaim. For the next week you can stream the album in its entirety thanks to NPR. Be sure to give it a listen. Also, even though I already posted the promo videos for the single, I'm posting them again. They're just that worth your while.
First Listen: The Black Keys, 'Brothers' by Bob Boilen
The Black Keys on MySpace


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