Previously: The Black Keys – Brothers
The Black Keys were ubiquitous in 2010. Liven up your next TV party with the Black Keys drinking game: every time you hear a Black Keys song on TV, take a number of drinks equal to how many albums ago it’s from. Bonus drink if the song is heard in a context other than a commercial. When Captain Beefheart died they even got mention in a couple news articles about it for having covered a few of his songs. It’s possibly a bit much.
In their early days, if you were paying attention, you might have noticed that they tended to have better songs than the average among their peers, but generally you could be forgiven for having overlooked The Black Keys among the glut of two-piece gritty-blues-rock outfits that seemed to appear in the wake of the sudden success of The White Stripes (about whom I’m obligated to mention their breakup, but presumably you already heard about it). Then you might have started to notice that they seemed to put out an awful lot of albums. Turns out they were getting better with each one. They began to really set themselves apart from the crowd in 2008 on Attack & Release by trading in blues orthodoxy for 1960s R&B/soul elements that give Dan Auerbach more room to use his smooth, agile vocals and stretch his lyric writing, and those new degrees of freedom allowed them to put tremendous emotional depth into the songs. Adding in a bit of extra instrumentation on record didn’t hurt either. Having established this formula, they pretty much stuck with it in 2010 for Brothers, and delivered one of the best albums of the year yet again.
(As for 2009, Dan Auerbach released the excellent, somewhat overlooked solo album Keep It Hid — it pretty much sounds like a Black Keys record with some folk leanings, definitely worth checking out.)