The Black Keys’ Turn Blue: What You Need To Know
What’s the background?
From humble beginnings making recordings of their bluesy garage rock on an 8-track in their basement, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been steadily building a reputation for themselves over the last decade, outgrowing early comparisons to bands like The White Stripes to become a major commercial success in their own right. Things really started to take off for The Black Keys around 2007 when they were asked by producer Danger Mouse to contribute some songs to an album he was working on with Ike Turner. When the album was later shelved, shortly before the death of Turner, the band recruited the producer to work with them on their next record, with much of the material they had written being repurposed for what would become Attack & Release.
This marked a turning point for the band with the album climbing to No. 14 in the Billboard Hot 100. Its follow-up, Brothers, included their biggest single to date in ‘Tighten Up’ and was nominated for 5 Grammys, taking home 3 of them including Best Alternative Rock Album. Since then the duo from Akron, Ohio have been riding a wave of success, releasing another critically acclaimed and commercially successful LP with 2011’s El Camino and working on a range of side projects including Blakroc, a collaboration with a list of hip hop artists that included Q-Tip, RZA and Mos Def. The pair have also chalked up a long list of production credits, with Auerbach currently working on the new Lana Del Ray album.
The announcement for the band’s 8th studio album, Turn Blue, was made on Twitter by none other than former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who linked to series of cryptic videos featuring a hypnotist before the album details were finally revealed at the end of March this year.
Who’s producing it?
As with each of their albums since 2008’s Attack & Release, production duties are being jointly handled by Danger Mouse - aka Brian Burton - and the band themselves, recording this time primarily at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound studio, with other tracks being recorded at Key Club in Michigan and also at Auerbach’s own Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville.
What are the standout tracks?
Lead single ‘Fever’ is one of the record’s most instantly ear-catching tracks with its pumping four-to-the-floor backbeat and grinding bassline, along with ‘It’s Up To You Now’, a shuffling drum groove topped off by Auerbach’s trademark fuzzed-up guitars. The title track is another highlight, a more gentle groove with a swelling hook featuring some soaring falsetto vocals, while ‘A Year In Review’ has bagfuls of soul, augmented by some haunting, almost choral backing vocals in the chorus. Some of the other tracks are slow-burners that seep into your brain and lodge themselves there for days, such as the mellow opening track ‘Weight of Love’, making for a pretty balanced collection of songs that retains much of what was good about their last outing, El Camino.
Does it deliver?
If you enjoyed their last couple of albums then the answer has to be a yes; Turn Blue continues where El Camino left off and while it would be unfair to say that The Black Keys are sticking to a formula, it’s definitely a continuation of the steady progress they’ve been making on their last few records. Part of this consistency could be ascribed to the role of Danger Mouse as co-producer, who seems to bring out the best in the band, but let’s give credit where it’s due: Auerbach and Carney are two very accomplished musicians who are savvy enough to continue their musical growth at a pace that doesn’t alienate their fanbase, and there’s enough experimentation on Turn Blue to satisfy their fans as well as their own sense of curiosity and ambition. You can expect Turn Blue to be storming its way up the album charts in the very near future.
Turn Blue will be available in hmv stores and from our download store from Monday May 12th. In the meantime you can download the title track here