Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- It has been almost three years since The Black Keys graced the world with a new album, but that has not stopped their momentum. Since 2011’s El Camino, the Akron duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have steadily become one of the most popular alternative rock bands in the country. Their next album was in the works for a long time, but no word of what the album was called or when it would be released. Finally in March, their first single in over two years, “Fever” was released along with the title: Turn Blue.
The anticipation of Turn Blue was hot and after the first listen, it was hard to get into it as fast as the previous two albums. However, after a couple deep listens, you really begin to feel the groove of Turn Blue. Auerbach and Carney have brewed a gorgeous set of songs that surge through you. As the title may suggest, the album has a more soulful and bluesy feel than the last two albums, Brothers and El Camino, and makes you want to lay on the floor and just let the music pulse through you.
The opening track, the ambitious “Weight of Love” takes up 6 minutes of the album’s running time and totally works on you, setting you up for what is to come. “In Time” and the titular “Turn Blue” follow that and have a similar feel to “Weight of Love” and keep that feeling going. “It’s Up To You Now” and “Waiting on Words” keep it strong while transitioning to the album’s finale. The final track, “Gotta Get Away” is the standout of the bunch, not having the same feel of its 10 counterparts, but promises the start of something new around the corner.
Every band at some point in their careers has an album that represents their turning point as artists. Many people would probably say Brothers was that for The Black Keys, but in reality it’s more the album before that, Attack & Release. It was the first album not to be recorded in Carney’s basement and that changed their sound forever. From then on the swampy rock sounds of Rubber Factory and thickfreakness of their roots was altered to a crisper finish. This propelled them into the spotlight and it’s partly what helped Brothers become such a success (that and the fact that they’re a very talented band). However after two massive successes, Auerbach and Carney seem to be trying to take a step back to their roots.
To diverge for a second, this happened to Green Day recently with their latest trio of albums. Billie Joe Armstrong and co. sought to pull back from their rock opera phase and make albums that harkened back to the good ol’ days of Dookie and Warning. However, it’s hard to go back to that kind of album when you’ve done American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. As a result, Uno!, Dos!, and Tre! are albums that have the attitude of the old Green Day, but through the sound of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.
In Turn Blue, The Black Keys seem to be trying to go back to those songs of Attack & Release and Rubber Factory, but they can never achieve that exact down home sound because they’ve gone through Brothers and El Camino. That’s not something that impairs Turn Blue in the slightest. After all, Uno!, Dos!, and Tre!, though not with their faults, are all pretty solid sets of songs and the same is true of Turn Blue. The Black Keys are trying to call back to the days in Carney’s basement, but through their new sound. The result is a unique collection of songs that really meld together into a superb blend.
Turn Blue is a marvelous album from Auerbach and Carney. The songs have a tendency to delve deep within you and work their magic on you. The Black Keys remain one of the best bands working today and this album cements that. It is not only a callback to the band’s earlier work, but it also a step in a different direction. Based on what you’ll hear from Turn Blue, you will not be able to wait to see where that direction takes you.
Notable Tracks: Weight of Love, In Time, It’s Up To You Now, Gotta Get Away
Turn Blue by the Black Keys is available on iTunes, Amazon, and anywhere else music is sold or listened to.