Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Black Keys' Turn Blue: A Journey in Psychedelic Experimentation

Album Cover of Turn Blue, by The Black Keys. Designed by Michael Carney

When most people think of The Black Keys they think of two guys (Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals and Patrick Carney on drums) making straight up gritty bluesy guitar rock. In more recent years however, the band has departed from that original lo-fi blues sound for a more mainstream friendly pop rock vibe. The band's 2011 release El Camino had more emphasis on synth and catchy hooks than previous works of theirs, but they still maintained a very guitar rock oriented sound. However, with the assistance of producer and song writer Danger Mouse their new album Turn Blue has The Black Keys going in a more psychedelic direction by bringing the synth more to the forefront and having less emphasis on guitar.

The majority of Turn Blue was recorded between July and August of 2013 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. Additional recording was done at Key Club in Benton Harbor, MI and Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, TN. The album itself was released May 12, 2014. According to Auerbach, the reason for the long waiting period between albums was because the band was "this is your brain on drugs" fried.

The title track Turn Blue was the second single released for the album after Fever. This tune along with many others on the album is very laid back and psychedelic while also having a minor funky vibe. At times the tone of the guitar makes the main riff seem as though it is paying minor homage to Eric Clapton's song Cocaine. This song is an excellent addition to anyone's night time driving mix.

It's Up to You Now has almost a jungle drum feel to the start and keeps it up for most of the song. However, this song is closer to The Black Keys' old stuff than almost everything else on the album. The electric guitar is very much present and punching in this song. This tune is also a bit more upbeat than most of the rest of the album. While still having their current production vibe to it, the band at least for one shining moment went back to being the gritty blues band from Ohio that people came to know and love 13 years ago.

Turn Blue definitely gives the impression that The Black Keys decided to go a more experimental route this time around. Where El Camino had catchy upbeat rockers, this album is more laid back, melancholic, and psychedelic. The songs are very rhythmic and occasionally dance-worthy, but seeing as The Black Keys are primarily known as a rock band a bit more rhythm guitar in the mix would have made it more accessible to long time fans. However, the guitar solos were very melodic and made some of the songs a little more digestible when the synth got to be a little too much. Even for those who have been listening to the band a long time however, there are a couple pleasant surprises to be heard when playing this record.

Turn Blue, by The Black Keys gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Weight of Love
2. In Time
3. Turn Blue
4. Fever
5. Year in Review
6. Bullet in the Brain
7. It's Up to You Now
8. Waiting on Words
9. 10 Lovers
10. In Our Prime
11. Gotta Get Away

Buy the album on Amazon:

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