Released: May 12, 2014
Genre: Garage Rock, Blues Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Label: Nonesuch Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
The Black Keys return with a new album that can best be described as in-depth and ingratiating.
Turn BlueFeatured review by: UG Team, on may 30, 2014 3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: The Black Keys are a popular American blues-rock band from Akron, Ohio. They are so popular in fact that this album, the band's eighth, debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. How The Black Keys, a band of just two members that self-recorded their first few albums in a basement, has managed to achieve such acclaim, I do not know. Sure, the music is good, but it just seems that every widely popular band in the post-MTV world needs to have some sort of image factor whether it is Lady Gaga's ridiculously bombastic image or Kurt Cobain's sheer minimalist image.
So how do two dorky looking guys manage to command such leagues of fans?
Whatever the answer, I give The Black Keys enormous credit for earning their fame without a characteristic image. As best I can see though, their fame must come through the music. With "Turn Blue," The Black Keys continue to impress with their musical acumen. While they do exhibit exciting some musical growth, The Black Keys' best asset on this album is their variety. The Black Keys manage to do one of the hardest things in popular music: sound fresh and exciting each song even though they each have the same musical premise. They also beautifully bridge the gap between songs notable for their experience (usually the genres of drone, ambient, fusion, and post-rock/metal) and songs notable for their catchy rhythm (usually from genres of pop, glam, and hard rock). Each of the songs on this album has some sort of catchy melody or rhythm but at the same time, each has enough underlying, ancillary parts to keep the piece interesting even if the listener does not particularly like the melody/rhythm.
These underlying "parts," for lack of a better word, affirm The Black Keys' production values and overall good taste. The instruments used for these parts vary throughout to fit the music; sometimes they involve acoustic guitar, other times they utilize piano or some sort of exotic sounding synthesizer or maybe even an unusual type of guitar distortion. They are always delicately placed in the mix to add to the overall sound and provide something interesting to search for while at the same time not subtracting from the main melody of the song.
The guitar work from Dan Auerbach is excellent as well. While there are many aspects of the guitar work on this album that are great, Auerbach's use of distortion is most interesting. Assuming that all of the guitar on the album came from a physical guitar at some point in the signal chain (not some sort of MIDI controller), it's spectacular what different tones Auerbach is able to extract. Whether clean or dirty, dark or light, chorused or delayed, Auerbach finds what he needs to make the songs as good as they can possibly be. Keeping track of all of the sounds Auerbach uses is harder and arguably more interesting than doing anything else with this album.
The most intriguing of Dan Auerbach's choices is not his guitar tones, but rather the taste with which he applies them. Most of the songs heavily rely on Auerbach's guitar parts apart from the melody to find their footing. The little nuances of Auerbach's playing add so much to the songs, serving to create compositions that are interesting enough to warrant excessive replays of the songs, even if many have a somewhat pop base. A case in point is the opening song "Weight of Love," in which he builds the song up until it crescendos, much like "Stairway to Heaven," in a guitar solo that can be only described as epic. Auerbach's use of dynamics as well as taste creates the epic feeling of the guitar solo, not the solo itself; that is the beauty of the guitar work on this album.
Despite the good qualities described above, I still think The Black Keys have room to grow. I do not know whether they have the ability to get to where I think they should be, but as it stands, they have not gone over the hump from good to great. They have all the right elements, but nothing that they have done, including their most famous song "Tighten Up," has ever gone over the hump that many bands come to. I can see why The Black Keys' music has given them fame (though not as much as they have gotten) but I believe that they will need to go a little further if they want to be one of those bands that we still remember thirty years from now. // 8
Lyrics: While The Black Keys display many supreme talents throughout this album, vocal ability is not among them. While I could understand some people finding Dan Auerbach's head voice as touching, his voice as a whole is neither sincere (for the songs about love) nor true; the little emotion put forth does not seem real. The vocals are at least adequate; neither bad nor good, but the magnitude and skill of the rest of the album demand a better performance, if he can even give one. // 7
Overall Impression: In conclusion, this album is a step in the right direction for The Black Keys. In an effort to shun radio singles, The Black Keys have written their most in-depth album in a while, possibly ever. On the guitar, Dan Auerbach exhibits considerable skill, but more importantly, he exhibits variety and good taste.
I understand that I have for the most part excluded the other half of The Black Keys, drummer Patrick Carney, from the review. But that is purposeful; the drumming does not play that significant a role in this album; the guitar work takes center stage, with the vocals trailing behind. // 8
The_Maestro1, on may 30, 2014 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: I can admit it now… I was worried.
When I heard the first single "Fever" from The Black Keys latest album "Turn Blue," I wondered if this once under the radar blues duo had in fact started sipping the kool-aid of modern rock radio just a little too much. I mean, how can a Black Keys' song completely abandon the guitar? On "Fever" the group traded in the six string in favor of the synth-heavy hand of (over)producer Danger Mouse, and I just prayed this was simply a ploy to win the favor of their radio overlords before getting back to the real music that garnered them so much acclaim in the less mainstream of music circles.
"Fever" needed to be the first single off the album because, thankfully, it was the only radio single I heard on "Turn Blue." There is no "Gold of the Ceiling," or "Lonely Boy" on this album, other than the aforementioned "Fever." And dare I say that you won't be seeing any TV commercials for adult diapers and suddenly hear a Black Keys' song playing.
As a whole, "Turn Blue" is much more laid back and sure of what it wants to be. It seemed like "El Camino" and "Brothers" were more along the lines of what this once obscure group thought they needed to produce to gain a foothold in the world of mainstream music. To their credit, it worked. Now, with Grammys under their belts and considerably more zeros in their bank accounts, the group appears to be getting back to making music without an agenda.
Upon listening to the very first track, "Weight of Love," it should become apparent that listeners are not in for the same type of songs they heard on the much poppier "El Camino." There will be a McConaughey-like "Alright Alright" moment as you slide back and get comfortable during the 2:08 instrumental that opens the nearly 7:00 first track of the album.
As I said, Danger Mouse is back to fill all the extra space with production. "Turn Blue" far from as striped down as many original fans would like to hear. I myself would love a few tracks with nothing but Dan and his Maestro fuzz guitar-riffing over Patrick's simple drum beats, but the sound of "Turn Blue" will have The Black Keys able to seamlessly do a duel headlining bill with Broken Bells and draw the same type of crowd. // 7
Lyrics: Lyrically, "Turn Blue" is a return to form for The Black Keys in that these songs do not find the hooks as quickly, or as easily as they did on the much more broad appeal of "El Camino."
As was widely publicized, singer Dan Auerbach was trying to find his way through a very public and very messy divorce from his wife Stephanie Gonis while this album was being made. As a result, those experiences naturally found their way onto a lot of "Turn Blue." It shouldn't be hard to identify Dan's source material for a song like "Waiting on Words," with lines like "Goodbye, I heard you were leaving/ Won't try changing your mind." The same can be said for the title track as Dan sings, "I could dream my head before my world turned blue/ And the light inside would only shine for you."
Dan's vocal range is once again on display with this album. He is able to find his falsetto quite regularly. For a track comparison, songs from the "Brothers" album, like "Everlasting Light" and "The Only One" would feel right at home on "Turn Blue." // 7
Overall Impression: Eyes-closed, head-bobbing grooves is the best way to describe the overall feel of "Turn Blue." Those fans hoping for loud, uptempo fuzz-drenched rockers like "Just Got to Be" or "Thickfeakness" may be in for a bit of a letdown, but, as someone whose favorite Black Keys' song is "The Lengths," I was pleasantly surprised with their eight studio offering.
"Turn Blue" begs to be bought on vinyl so you can just drop the needle as you try to entertain a female guest while praying you seem 1/10 as cool as this album sounds.
"Turn Blue" could have arrived in a time machine from 1974 with four lady backup singers dressed in velour jump suits. No one in mainstream music is making the kind of music The Black Keys are attempting to get away with on "Turn Blue." We will just have to wait and see if "Fever" was enough catnip to bait the I. "Weight of Love" and "Turn Blue" are the most impressive tracks on the album, while "Fever" and "Gotta Get Away" are the songs that will most frequently feel the cold sting of the skip button. // 7
Paul*Stanley, on may 30, 2014 3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: The Black Keys continue to divorce themselves from their scuzzy blues-rock roots with their latest and eighth album, "Turn Blue." For diehard fans of their earlier material, this album might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but for everyone else, it turns out subtle, groovy, and just a little psychedelic.
Danger Mouse, who collaborated with the Keys on their 2010 single "Tighten Up" and has showed up on both discs since then, is credited as a co-writer on all 11 songs, and it shows. "Turn Blue" is their most keyboard/organ/synth-heavy record to date, and all the keys were played by Danger Mouse. The guitars almost take a backseat to the keyboard grooves, but that's not a bad thing. The fuzzy key riff on "Fever" is catchy as all hell, and the piano adds some nice texture to the funky bassline on "Bullet in the Brain." Frontman Dan Auerbach hasn't completely abandoned his guitar though - the album opener "Weight of Love" is a warm guitar jam, and the album's closer, "Gotta Get Away" is a straight-up, classic rock breakup song.
There's a lot of variety across the record. It gets bluesy on "It's Up to You Now" and "Year in Review," it's poppy in "Fever," and soulful on "10 Lovers." Patrick Carney's never the outright star of a song, but his playing is serviceable and funky throughout. // 8
Lyrics: Dan Auerbach doesn't take too many risks on this album, but he does what he does well. His vocals never waver from his now-signature soulful croon that we saw on "Brothers" and "El Camino." He can be delicate when he wants to like in "In Our Prime" bu then fits right in with the highway-ready "Gotta Get Away" at the end of the album.
He has an ability to make decent lyrics sound profound, like on "Year in Review" when he sings, "You can never find a soul that's got no pain within / Just like you'll never find a singer without that sin / Will it ever end?" It sounds better on the record than on paper. Auerbach focuses mostly on themes of heartbreak, loss, and the evil women from whom he would rather stay away. // 9
Overall Impression: "Turn Blue" as a whole is a little more memorable than its predecessor, "El Camino," even though none of the tracks on it are quite as fun as "Lonely Boy" or "Gold on the Ceiling." It's a solid album that'll fit a number of moods. The best songs are the first and last - "Weight of Love" and "Gotta Get Away," but "Fever," "Bullet in the Brain" and "It's Up to You Now" are close seconds. In fact, the only real dud on the album is "In Our Prime."
The Black Keys don't feel like much of a twosome any more; Danger Mouse's influence is obvious throughout the record. Luckily, he mostly helps them craft a soulful, varied album that deserves some re-listening, even if it isn't quite the best they've done. // 8
sovaso, on may 30, 2014 1 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: The Black Keys just keep surprising me with everything that they do, and "Turn Blue" follows a new experimental way of The Black Keys. Is it worth it? In a lot of ways, I was happy but also, in a lot of ways I was madly disappointed. Dan and Patrick almost COMPLETELY ditch the ever so popular "El Camino" sound and even the bluesy garage blues feel of "Brothers" for a much different sound. If you're looking for a nice garage rock album like "El Camino," you are not going to find it here. At best, "Turn Blue" feels... psychedelic. From the more heavy synthesizer sound to even the album cover itself, "Turn Blue" takes on a completely different, more psychedelic feel. In some ways, it sounds really amazing, most specifically in "Fever," "Turn Blue" and "Year in Review." These are all the tracks I was pleased with to a large extent. "Turn Blue" especially made me very pleased with the new changes The Black Keys have made. How ever, as a wise man once said, every rose has it's thorn. There are a few tracks where the new feel just doesn't work at all. I was disappointed on tracks like "In Time" where there is just a constant buzzing in the track. This is a sloppy recording issue that could have been fixed easily. It drives me, personally, crazy. Yet, there are times in which this new feel works for the Keys. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrics in "Turn Blue" are, well, the same as "El Camino," "Brothers," "Attack and Release," and "Magic Potion." Which disappoints me in The Black Keys. All the songs hint at some other themes like travel ("Gotta Get Away"), but they all talk about relationships or break ups. So all songs on "Turn Blue" are psychedelic love songs. What's even worse is that most of the lyrics in the songs are repeated. It really seems like Auerbach and Carney only write a few lyrics, then repeat them over and over again. There are also times in the album where Auerbach takes a risk and attempts to sing in a much higher range than he's use to. This works in "Bullet in the Brain," but, not at all on "Waiting on Words." If you decide to pick this album up, it really shouldn't be for the lyrics. // 4
Overall Impression: The Black Keys have tried new things in "Turn Blue." The album is loaded with potential and good ideas. It's just sloppy and needs work. "Turn Blue" is the definition of a love it or hate it album. The Black Keys decide to try new things, and for the most part it just leads to a confused "...what?" for most listeners. "Turn Blue" made me realize how much I like the garage rock and blues influences of "El Camino" and "Brothers." If we are looking for highlights, "Fever," "Turn Blue," "Year in Review," and "In Our Prime" rise to the top of the album. "Bullet in the Brain" seems like the obvious low point for me. All of the other tracks just confuse me so much. Tracks like "Weight of Love" and "10 Lovers" leave a good idea of what is to come from The Black Keys. "Weight of Love" especially, being the longest track The Black Keys have ever released besides "240 Years Before You Were Born," makes me say, "Dang, I wish this was a little less sloppy." This feels like a dull and boring album, that is meant to set up The Black Keys for a big hit in coming years, almost like the EP "Chulahoma." "Turn Blue" leaves a lot to be desired from the Keys. This is a toss up for me. I really want to like "Turn Blue," but it's just so hard, with all the mistakes The Black Keys made. "Turn Blue" ushers The Black Keys into a new era, but a lot of people might not like this, and start referring their interest to the likes of the Keys' previous albums. // 5