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Monday, July 26, 2021

The Black Keys’ “Turn Blue” review

Just three years after the Black Keys released their heavily worn platinum album El Camino, the band is back with their newest record Turn Blue.

In true Black Keys fashion, the album offers plenty of gritty blues and self-indulgent guitar solos, but with a refreshingly genuine approach. Released on May 12, 2014 under Nonesuch Records, the unique collection is already winning critics over.

In their eighth album, the band delves into their rock and blues roots, but takes their sound a step further. Guitar solos are present, but more patient and thorough. New sounds include synths and phaser pedals, which create a psychedelic haze, while steady bass lines and heavy distortion help maintain the band’s original sound.

What Turn Blue manages to do well is show off the band’s evolution achieved by not totally filling the stereo with prepackaged rock-and-roll riffs. The two-minute jam session at the beginning of “Weight of Love” and drunken 70s disco-esque melody in “10 Lovers” make it seem as if the band is creating music beyond just what their audience expects.

The producer/keyboardist Danger Mouse, who has worked with bands from U2 to Portugal. the Man, has had an increasing influence on the band’s sound. Tracks like “In Time” and “Waiting on Words” are proof of his presence; his arsenal of synthesizers give the songs an electric feel,  which contrasts perfectly with lead singer Dan Auerbach’s raspy falsetto voice.

While the album is sonically strong, it fails to carry much lyrical weight. Its lack of complexity manifests itself with nearly every song with lyrics pertaining to Auerbach’s recent divorce. As the album played, there were really only so many times I could hear colorless lines like, “I will remember the times when love would really glow.” Turn Blue attempts to dump the melodrama with their last song and upbeat classic rock piece “Gotta Get Away,” but it just felt disjointed.

The album is an acquired taste; I certainly didn’t get into it the first time through. And although the lyrics left me wanting more, The Black Keys bring a much needed freshness to their sound, which is why I give Turn Blue an 8.5/10.


If you like this album, you might enjoy music from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Arctic Monkeys or Radio Moscow.

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