The Black Keys
Album: “Turn Blue” (Nonesuch Records)
It’s been four years and several Grammy wins since the Black Keys’ breakthrough album, “Brothers,” and the kings of alternative-rock show no sign of letting their hard-earned crown slip.
“Turn Blue,” their eighth album and follow-up to 2011’s platinum-selling “El Camino,” is arguably their best yet. Superproducer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton is at the helm once again, adding layers of complex orchestration to singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s trademark blues-rock backbeat.
The album kicks off with the jaw-dropping “Weight of Love” — a seven-minute odyssey demonstrating the high confidence coursing through the band’s recording studio last summer. Starting with a simple acoustic guitar line, the hushed opening builds into an epic meditation on love and loss, with Auerbach’s intertwining guitar solos dissolving in a haze of reverb; the sound of a band operating at the peak of its power.
The stunning calling card is followed by three songs that rank among the best in the Keys’ canon, including the menacing title track (“I really don’t think you know, there could be hell below,” croons Auerbach over an echo-soaked piano) and omnipresent lead-off single, “Fever,” which couples a synth riff and bone-crunching bass. Elsewhere, distorted tribal drums and a snaking guitar line mark spacey rocker “It’s Up to You Now” as a future single.
The Keys close the album with two tracks at opposite ends of the band’s musical spectrum. Jimi Hendrix’s spirit comes through in the psychedelic guitar workout “In Our Prime,” while album closer “Gotta Get Away” is a pop track destined to become a summer anthem.
The Akron, Ohio-based band’s evolution from a simple guitar-and-drums duo to a fully formed, Grammy Award-winning stadium rock act is remarkable. Their once limited black-and-white palette now boasts hundreds of contrasting colors.
—Matthew Kemp, Associated Press