Sound — 8
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.
Lyrics — 9
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.
Overall Impression — 8
"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.