The Black Keys BROTHERS [Nonesuch]


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Justin Bolois talks about the Black Keys new album, "Brothers."

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Push aside that light wheat beer of yours and grab a 40 oz. of Steel Reserve - cause this ain't no band for the weary kind.

Thumping along with heavy blues grooves and swelling percussion, Brothers presents a reinvigorated Black Keys sound after taking a hip-hop hiatus with their previous album Blakroc. All the elements we love about the Black Keys still emerge on this project: grating guitar, crackling distortion and pounding drums. Only this time they have refocused these sounds into something more sultry on the album's second half. Think of the blues with a softer swagger, something sexier than the chug-a-long blues from their previous work.

Recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, Brothers explores a more soulful terrain thanks in part to lead singer Dan Auerbach's vocal range. On "The Only One" he croons in a distorted falsetto that departs from his typical gravelly voice. Auerbach even invokes the humor of original bluesmen as he wryly pines on "Next Girl," "Oh my next girl/Will be nothing like my ex girl."

Despite this new agenda, the best songs on the album closely align with their rugged, older material. The Danger Mouse produced "Tighten Up," the album's pop-oriented single, is accompanied by jaunty schoolboy whistles while "She's Long Gone" slowly heaves with visceral, throbbing fuzz licks.

The vibe emitted is not simply playful amour or even morose love-loss. It's as if an air of mystic voodoo overtakes their playing, while the sludgy riffs of Auerbach's guitar arouse dark enchantments that often lay hidden in the deep swamps of Huckleberry Finn. And it is this seemingly incongruous balance of haunted and erotic that embeds the Black Keys within the blues continuum.

-Justin Bolois

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