Got hold of a promo download of the new Black Keys album Brothers and have been giving it a listen just now.
I think we’re way past the point now of talking about the Black Keys emerging from the shadow of The White Stripes — two bands, both guitar-drums duos working in a garage-blues milieu, and having similar-yet-opposite names, but one getting their mainstream (whatever that is these days) acknowledgment a bit ahead of the other. The Black Keys distinguished themselves in a big way with their most recent album Attack & Release as they moved stylistically a few degrees from raucous garage-blues towards more of a slow-burn soul sound that I think is especially well-suited to Dan Auerbach’s voice, sort of the Paul Rodgers to Jack White’s Robert Plant. Fans of Attack & Release will be happy to know that that stylistic progression didn’t end with the concept of writing songs for Ike Turner; Brothers continues forward with that songwriting vein, even as it moves a little bit backwards in production and arrangements toward the rawness of earlier Black Keys albums. The combination works well, and thought it’s hard to say after one listen, this could the the best Black Keys album yet.
Anyway not to beat the White Stripes thing to death, especially since I think I like the Black Keys better lately — but the reason I even bring it up is that Auerbach does start this album out with something new for him that has the potential to bring that reference back into play: the “Blue Orchid”-ish falsetto in which he sings the album’s opener, “Everlasting Light.” While probably unnecessary, it’s still an interesting new thing to hear from this band, and shows that they continue to experiment with their sound. He brings it back in a few well-chosen moments later in the album, but not many, and more generally explores the higher end of his vocal range on a few of the numbers here. I love Auerbach’s voice, and I love that this many albums and years in he’s still doing new things with it.
I’m not going to tell you where I found the whole album, set to be released May 18, because of the weird legal shit going on in the music game these days, but The Black Keys’ website should have a couple songs up for download and you can find out how to pre-order the “deluxe edition,” yet another of those music-business gimmicks that’s big these days, from there was well. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t at their show in Iowa City a couple weeks ago. Really just didn’t have that kind of cash to throw around at the time. As Cake said, how do you afford your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?