The Black Keys – [Album]

Saturday, 19 April 2008

It’s not fair for me to write this review. I’ve listened to this album more times than a grown man should. Read: my opinion is very biased.

That disclaimer aside, I can see how Attack & Release might pose a few problems for some of the more loyal Black Keys fans, as out go the messy noises of the guitar and drums so prevalent on their first four albums and in comes a more polished, Mississippi blues sound. Taking their act into a real recording studio for the first time, The Keys teamed up with famed underground misfit/producer Danger Mouse, and the man makes a true difference. That raw, lo-fi, sound that defined The Black Keys on their previous albums is cleaned up a bit on Attack & Release. Among many new additions to the Keys sound are the flute, piano and voice of bluegrass singer Jessica Lee Mayfield, who does a duet with lead singer, Dan Auerbach on the last track of the album, “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be."

“Lies” is my favorite track on the album, and I was hooked in the first five seconds as the soft rumble Auerbach’s chords set the mood to blue. A choir of humming women chime in before and after the hook, and Patrick Carney’s drums pace the song along like a true delta blues ballad.

Towards the middle of the album, the Keys make an interesting move by including two distinctively different versions of the same song back to back. The first “Remember When” track is a lowly, depressed love ballad about the memory of a lost love one. Then—seemingly after the better part of a half-gallon of Tennessee Whiskey—Auerbach and Carney record an anger filled version of the same song.

To say that Attack & Release is my favorite album I’ve heard this year would be a bit of a misnomer, as its probably been more like five years since I’ve heard a collection of songs that had such an effect on me. From the beginning of the record, the slow pace of “All You Ever Wanted” transitions nicely into a banjo led, “Psychotic Girl."

The duo of Auerbach and Carney has a supreme amount of talent and when put in the right hands—in this case a producer—amazing things can happen. Attack & Release is a step away from the road The Black Keys were heading down, and is a true testament towards their ability to recreate the old blues ballads of the 50s and 60s. With Danger Mouse on the switch boards, this band that is forever destined to live in the shadow of The White Stripes steps into their own with material of the utmost quality.

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