The Black Keys have always been a cloth ripped from the golden age of rock. Their blues rock sound was always more 60s than punk rock and less eccentric than their like minded peer Jack White. However, they have never had an opportunity to really let that influence shine as they had always were under the light of the indie rock label. However, with Turn Blue, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have turned their real life pain into an atmospheric yet crushing album that serves as the best they’ve done in their careers.
The first tip that something is different with this album than from their previous ones is the opening track, “Weight of Love”. With the Neil Young-esque intro and sprawling 6:50 running time complete with guitar solos and elongated outro, the song sets the stage for a track list filled with lament and regret. Make no mistake, this is a break up album along the lines of Adele’s 21 or Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts. Fun Fact: Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse produced both Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts and The Black Keys’ Turn Blue.
The album is filled with reserved rock melodies that will often explode into crushing solos that further accentuates the heartbreak sentiment festering under a thin ceiling. The main single, “Fever”, is a great example of this. Auerbach laments in the verse “You shook me like I’ve never been – Now show me how to live again”, but in the bridge realizes “If the cold pale light in your eyes reaches those horizon lines, you know not to leave her” before exploding into a drum pounding guitar solo.
Other songs, like “In Time”, find Auerbach coo over a great melody while expressing distain over the betrayal of love. It’s in this where we find Auerbach at his best vocally and his singing has never sounded more emotive and strong in any previous album. Burton’s pension for strange electronic touches is present as well but it never oversteps its bounds and always lets the rocking sound of the Black Keys shine through. If anything, it serves to highlight it.
The influence in the more raw sound rock from the past is clear and it’s done with such a polish yet carnal way that it makes the album pleasant to hear at any time despite it also hitting a chord emotionally. There’s a sense of influence from the indie pop movement and I imagine that the Black Keys must’ve listened to Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts also. The song “10 Lovers” is probably the most telling of this. This vague mash up makes for a compelling sound that feels visceral but also ethereal.
The greatest strength of this album is the simplest of all: great songs. Auerbach, Carney and Burton are at the top of their game and there is not one weak song in the album’s 11 tracks. Whether it’s the great melody and backing vocals in “Year in Review” or the chugging “It’s Up to You Now”, Turn Blue excels the Black Keys’ songwriting skills. “Waiting on Words” should get some special attention as it shows a side of the Black Keys that has never been seen before.
Turn Blue is the Black Keys’ masterpiece and stands as the best work the band has ever done. If there was a complaint I could make, the final song “Gotta Get Away” doesn’t do the album justice as a ender. The song right before it, “In Our Prime” would’ve done much better. Regardless, that’s just a matter of placement rather than song quality and it’s a small nitpick in what is a near perfect album. Rock fans have a definite album to rally behind as it could be one of the best of the year.
Thanks for reading my review of The Black Keys album, Turn Blue. What did you think of the album? Let me know in the comments below and follow my blog for more posts from me. Peace and Love, music lovers! Colorwind out!