• January 17, 2021
1 Comments
The Black Keys released Turn Blue, their eighth album and third produced by Danger Mouse, on May 12. The album has an average rating of 74 (out of 100) on Metacritic.com.
The Black Keys released Turn Blue, their eighth album and third produced by Danger Mouse, on May 12. The album has an average rating of 74 (out of 100) on Metacritic.com.

If Danger Mouse didn’t spoil the Black Keys’ individuality, if the profit lures of pop didn’t corrupt the Black Keys’ unique genre, if fanbase impatience didn’t force the Black Keys into a rushed production, time alone was expected to mellow the band’s allure.

Yet new album Turn Blue proves, if nothing else, that the Blacks Keys’ iconism perseveres.

The same songwriting mastery and instrumental genius which made previous albums Brothers and El Camino into popular hits again rise to the forefront in Turn Blue. But the new 11-item album blends such songwriting and instrumentation in a refreshingly reinvigorating concoction.

The Black Keys slow down their pace after the 80s-rock intensity of El Camino, meandering through songs like “Waiting on Words” and “Bullet in the Brain” in tantalizing relaxedness. If the band built their previous album based on the second half of 2011 hit “Little Black Submarines”, they composed Turn Blue on the standard set by the song’s first half — with a dose of infused psychedelia.

The guitar-centric emphasis of opening tracks “In Time” and seven-minute “Weight of Love” quickly establish that this album won’t be a shallow Coldplay-esque cave in to mainstream. Even closer “Gotta Get Away”, a not-so-subtle splurge into the world of catchy hooks, maintains a Black Keys feel outside of its cliched chorus.

Drummer Patrick Carney gets his opportunity to grab the spotlight in “10 Lovers”, a track largely forgettable outside of its beat and Carney’s opening drum solo. “Year in Review” gives the Black Keys a chance to showcase their newfound affection for contrast between pulsating bass and chirpy background singing.

Singer Dan Auerbach truly shines in overlooked gem “In Our Prime”, where sentimental, somber lyrics and Auerbach’s teasingly restrained, optimism-tinged vocals juxtapose brilliantly. The album’s second-to-last track stands out as one of the collection’s most original and memorable.

Lead singles “Turn Blue” and “Fever” reek most of alien influence; both have traceable similarities to Broken Bells’ rhythmic January album After the Disco (also Danger Mouse-produced) and The Bravery’s yell-over-the-guitar style of 2007 album The Sun and the Moon. But it’s not necessarily a negative influence. Listeners may be surprisingly pleased to hear the Black Keys incorporating other bands’ successful spins into their music.

Throwback track “It’s Up to You Now”, a blatant attempt to appease fans still lusting for a Thickfreakness repeat, exists awkwardly as perhaps the only misstep in an otherwise flawless 46-minute vacation to rock-alternative utopia.

One thought on ““Turn Blue” launches Black Keys to new high

  1. “The same songwriting mastery and instrumental genius which made previous albums Brothers and El Camino into popular hits again rise to the forefront in Turn Blue.”

    I think that Turn Blue is more a mixture of the Broken Bells and their second album, Thickfreakness, than anything from Brothers and El Camino. I firmly believe that this is one of the Black Keys best albums, alongside Thickfreakness(number 1 for me) and Rubber Factory(A close second). Brothers and El Camino are not far behind with Brothers being the slightly better record for me.

    “The Black Keys slow down their pace after the 80s-rock intensity of El Camino,”

    I don’t really think that it was 80’s rock per say. When I think of 80’s rock I think of Afgan Whigs, the Swans, Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, New Order, REM, Psychedelic Furs, Sisters of Mercy, Duran Duran, The Cure, and the Smiths. None of those sound even remotely similar to El Camino. In fact I would say that Turn Blue is much more 80’s rock-esque as some songs sound particularly like Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, and Duran Duran.

    “If the band built their previous album based on the second half of 2011 hit “Little Black Submarines”, they composed Turn Blue on the standard set by the song’s first half — with a dose of infused psychedelia.”

    I don’t really think that Turn Blue is as slow as the first half of little black submarines as Up to You Now and Weight of Love is more blue/garage rock than anything on El Camino.

    “The guitar-centric emphasis of opening tracks “In Time” and seven-minute “Weight of Love” quickly establish that this album won’t be a shallow Coldplay-esque cave in to mainstream.”

    I loved Weight of Love; I think a better way to word this would be to put Weight of Love in front considering it is the opening track.

    “Drummer Patrick Carney gets his opportunity to grab the spotlight in “10 Lovers”, a track largely forgettable outside of its beat and Carney’s opening drum solo.”

    It is in my humble opinion that 10 Lovers is one of the best songs on the album behind Weight of Love, In Our Prime, and Year in Review.

    ” “Year in Review” gives the Black Keys a chance to showcase their newfound affection for contrast between pulsating bass and chirpy background singing.”

    I found it to be similar to some of the songs on Supermodel, Foster the Peoples latest album.

    “Singer Dan Auerbach truly shines in overlooked gem “In Our Prime”, where sentimental, somber lyrics and Auerbach’s teasingly restrained, optimism-tinged vocals juxtapose brilliantly.”

    I don’t know about overlooked; of everyone I’ve talked to In Our Prime has been in their top 3 songs on the album. I do agree it is great however.

    “Lead singles “Turn Blue” and “Fever” reek most of alien influence; both have traceable similarities to Broken Bells’ rhythmic January album After the Disco (also Danger Mouse-produced) and The Bravery’s yell-over-the-guitar style of 2007 album The Sun and the Moon.”

    I think it is very similar to After the Disco(which is one of my favorite albums of the past couple years, aside from Reflektor of course) however to compare it to the Bravery is an insult to everything the Black Keys stand for. The Bravery is a bad, bland, cookie cutter band and their reviews on Metacritic and Pitchfork only serve to emphasize this.

    “But it’s not necessarily a negative influence.”

    I completely agree; many took exception to the fact that Brian Burton’s hand was slightly heavier in this album than in any others, but I am of the mindset that bands should strive to not be static. If people want the Black Keys to simply churn out Thickfreakness over and over again then they should just listen to Thickfreakness.

    “Throwback track “It’s Up to You Now”, a blatant attempt to appease fans still lusting for a Thickfreakness repeat, exists awkwardly as perhaps as the only misstep in an otherwise flawless 46-minute vacation to rock-alternative utopia.”

    I completely disagree; If it was the first or last song on the album then it certainly would have been a misstep, however its placement in perfect and it flows very well with the rest of the album. And while you might be of the mindset that the Black Keys later albums are better; the reviews and fans have certainly shown that they were at their rock apex while crafting Thickfreakness and I felt that having “Its up to you now” only seeks to support this album. Overall I felt this was one of the best albums of the year so far and reinforces why this band is one of my favorite bands of all time, behind only Arcade Fire.

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