As a band with Grammy-winning fame, the Black Keys have produced music that has become familiar to audiences of all different genres, ranging from ‘60s blues to modern alternative. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have worked together in this duo since 2001, cultivating a distinct garage rock sound with an authentic blues influence. With tracks like “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy” from previous albums, this distinct sound has gathered a following large enough to support the production of what is now their eighth studio album, “Turn Blue.” However, with great fame comes great expectations for an album full of glorious, I’ve-damaged-the-replay-button songs. Lucky for fans, the Black Keys once again succeed in doing just that.
With the early release of their first single, “Fever,” many fans were justifiably concerned about whether or not this album would gratify their high expectations. “Fever” starts off with an undeniably catchy beat, but the great uncertainty comes with the combination of Auerbach’s falsetto vocals and the intrusively high-pitched synthesizers. Together, these layers of near-white noise sound as if they may fit better as the title track for a start-up electro-pop EP. Even still, it is worth lingering until the bridge, where a bit of those layers is removed, until the reverie is eventually interrupted by the dramatic revenge of the synth until the end of the track.
Regardless, we can still rely on the Black Keys to produce some amazing tracks that really do stick with you for a long time. The title track, “Turn Blue,” does well in carrying on with the feel-good melody tradition that is found in nearly all of their songs. It incorporates a slightly psychedelic sound, while maintaining the most intimate aspects of blues. “10 Lovers” is another sentimental piece that aligns well with the album title in its slower, more bluesy qualities. The track begins with a really solid bass line, and the synth returns for yet another appearance. However, the synth has a different effect here than it does in “Fever,” as it follows the melody in lyrical rhythm to emphasize the anguish that suddenly becomes very real with each repeated chorus. It almost sounds like a wailing in the background as Auerbach cries, “Don’t leave us not in love again / ‘Cause we might break instead of bend.”
“Gotta Get Away” provides a sense of closure to what really seems, lyrically, to be a very personal collection of letters. Auerbach and Carney sign off with their ever-familiar sound, created by electric guitar and drums. Whether as a goodbye to a broken relationship, or to the ever-nearing end of this academic year, this track serves as a reminder that while it is acceptable (and even necessary) to indulge in the most bleak points in life, it is just as important to change the pace and move on. Even if that requires some Jack Kerouac soul searching, this album can easily take you through the entire, emotional ride “from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo.”
Rating: 4.5 stars