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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Album Prevaluation: The Black Keys - El Camino

I can't necessarily say this album was on my list of most anticipated for 2011 considering I didn't think it was coming out until 2012. Then a few weeks ago I read the album was finished and being prepped for a late year release. Following my unnatural love for last year's Brothers, which was my #1 album for the year and one of my favorites of the last decade, I was a tad bit giddy (and that description is playing it cool).

Not gonna lie but had it not been for my 5+ years living in Cleveland, OH I most likely would have been late to the party for this band. Luckily my close friends brought them to my attention since they are from Akron. Yes, that is the same place that LeBron is from. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are the TRUE native sons of Akron! Yet somehow, the 1st time I saw their amazing live show was here in Austin at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2008. I walked up right before they played and was able to get about 15 feet from the stage, as opposed to 2010 when I couldn't get closer than 50 yards. Anyway, a couple of guys next to me were talking about how sweet they are which obviously was followed by "yeah man, I think they are from New York." Luckily I was there to correct them and blow their collective mind that music that good came from Ohio!

Back to reviewing the album.....

Considering the new Keys album that goes by El Camino features an old mini-van should be the 1st clue that this album is not exactly going to be what you expect from them. In previous interviews I read where Dan and/or Patrick mentioned this album was going to be heavier than previous albums and completely different from Brothers, which really opened the world's eyes (finally) to the brilliance of this duo. The 2nd clue would be that Danger Mouse produced the entire album this time around. The album seems to pick up where "Tighten Up" left off from Brothers, which Danger Mouse also produced and really jump started the rise of The Black Keys.

My first actual listening experience off of El Camino was for the lead single "Lonely Boy" with the amazing video of nothing more than a guy dancing and lip-synching. The flow and fuzziness behind Dan's driving guitar got me really excited. Once I finally got my ears around El Camino it was apparent there was more of an R&B groove to the album along with the bluesiness fans are accustomed to. It also has a more produced sound as opposed to the lo-fi, garagey, dinginess of earlier albums. This was to be expected with Danger Mouse at the helm and he has a great chemistry with the Keys. He also produced their 2008 album Attack and Release.

I won't have the same kind of time to completely understand and digest El Camino as I did with Brothers before I finalize my year end album list. Not sure how noticeable it will be that I listened to the album a couple more times while typing this up but from the 1st to last sentences my love has grown exponentially.  It is different from previous Black Keys albums and shows a lot of growth but it really is the next logical step after Brothers. This is still the soul of The Black Keys you're hearing, just with a little extra polish.

Besides the aforementioned catchiness of Lonely Boy my favorite tracks are Sister, Gold on the Ceiling,  and Nova Baby. Call me crazy but during "Little Black Submarines" when Dan sings "..they got lost and out of time" it really sounds like Led Zeppelin!

View the video for "Lonely Boy" below

Lucky for all of us this was not a love that kept us waiting any longer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Album Review: Dad Rocks! - Mount Modern

This may sound odd but the 1st time I heard Dad Rocks! I pictured the music being played by Modest Mouse in the "Float On" video. Maybe just because Isaac Brock has a mustache? Mind you I hadn't seen that video in years so it was all from memory. I stick by it though. Even after multiple listens when I hear Snaevar Njall Albertsson sing I instantaneously think of this. Can we talk about that name!? Just about as impressive as the debut solo LP Mount Modern by the Icelandic native.

I quickly move past the whole image as I take in the light-hearted and possibly tongue-in-cheek lyrics Albertsson uniquely sings. How can the below lines from "Downaging" not throw you off whatever course your brain is on as they are sung over horns, drums, and other instruments devoid from the rest of the song other than accompanying some humming near the end?

And I became a boy when I received 
my first happy meal toy
And I noticed a pair of breasts
and I did what I could
I did my very own best
To get this girl undressed
but I sadly failed the test

Not gonna lie but I have never seen a smoother and faster transition from "happy meal toy" to "breasts." Takes some talent.

There's an interesting (and very short) song called "Major Labels" that basically says the best musicians out there are the kids uploading their original works onto youtube. They do not care about labels, producers, people buying albums or anything else and are just making something they created and love. You said it Snaevar!

I like this album and it is very unique, especially compared to everything else I have heard this year. A lot of it has to do with Albertsson's singing (sometimes almost talking in rhythm) and combine that with the folk elements, quirky lyrics and larger-than-expected arrangements. Sometimes it feels like early Coldplay attempts at arena rock are combined with the sensibility and stylings of a good way. One thing is for sure, it is virtually impossible to be in a bad mood while and after listening to Mount Modern.

Check the video for the song "Weapons" below. Basically describes the majority of us music lovers out there that like to get a taste of an album before buying it.