The Black Keys take the next step in their evolution on "Brothers," an album of moody, atmospheric songs most at home in a scuzzy nightclub circa 1972.
Once a garage rock band that played a bare-knuckle brand of blues that could melt your face, The Keys are something very different today. A few years back Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney decided they'd take a break from their two-man gig and invite others in to play.
They collaborated with Danger Mouse, worked with others on their own solo projects, invited guys like RZA and Mos Def to do a crossover experiment and tried to learn more about music.
They put what they learned into "Brothers" and have come up with their smoothest album yet, a perfect bookend for the career period that started with their last album as a group, the Danger Mouse-produced "Attack and Release." That album felt a bit uncertain, mostly due to the death of Ike Turner. The rock 'n' roll pioneer was supposed to join with the Keys on the album but died before the project was done.
This time out Auerbach and Carney have perfected their own brand of slow, down-and-dirty red-eyed soul.
Auerbach announces the shift by singing opener "Everlasting Light" in a falsetto, and it's not the only time he hides his preternatural singing voice with shifts in tone and style. The band does the same thing with its sound, adding instruments to their usual guitar-and-drums setup and take full advantage of a number of effects to set a decidedly back alley vibe.
"Tighten Up" is carried along on a bouncy bass line and a narcoticized shuffle that Carney beats into your brain. He then beats out a tom-tom dance on "Howlin' For You" that allows Auerbach to carry off a fuzzed out minimalism that never would have flown under the band's previous ethos.
Just about every song has something that makes you want to hit the back button and hear again. That's a rare feat.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Guitar tone and vibe already make "Next Girl" one of the most interesting songs on the album. Auerbach kicks it up with the chorus: "Oh, my next girl she'll be nothing like by ex girl, it was a painful dance, now I got a second chance."