It’s been 3 years since the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have released a studio album, and a lot has happened to The Black Keys in that time. To put it simply, they blew up since the release of El Camino, with their tracks featured in commercials, movie trailers and other forms of media. Unsurprisingly, the Keys have once again released an impressive record with Turn Blue, catering to old fans and attracting some new.
The mood of Turn Blue is set from the get-go, with the opening track “Weight of Love.” This nearly 7-minute track is a stoner-rock epic with some bluesy twinges and a summertime atmosphere. It’s obvious from the start that The Black Keys are trying something different with this album. Dan Auerbach himself has said that they set forth to make more of a “headphone record,” and that’s exactly what you get.
The Black Keys collaborated heavily with electronic music legend Danger Mouse, who produced this album and performed on it. The album credits state that Danger Mouse performed keyboard and piano on every song on Turn Blue, but some tracks are more obviously influenced by him than others. The title track “Turn Blue” as well as “Fever” are both examples of how this album should truly be labeled as “by The Black Keys & Danger Mouse.”
While some tracks are certainly more electronically influenced, almost reaching into MGMT territory, the rest of the album has a very 70’s stoner-rock and psychedelic feel. Tracks like “Bullet in the Brain” and the aforementioned opener “Weight of Love” certainly agree with Auerbach’s “headphone record” claim.
However, the final track, “Gotta Get Away”, throws a monkey wrench into this idea. This song instantly reeks of cheesy country bar jukebox jams and completely takes away from the otherwise deep and moody feel of this album. There is no doubt that this song will be appearing in commercials for pickup trucks and cheap beer this summer, but it was most certainly a poor choice to close out the psychedelic vibes that this record gives off for the first 10 songs.
While it may close on a disappointing note, Turn Blue is a moody blues record that echoes the image of a sad night on a dark beach in the middle of summer. The record is like The Black Keys & Danger Mouse meet Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe with a dab of Jimi Hendrix thrown into the mix, and it is surely a step in the right direction for one of the biggest bands in rock & roll today.
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