The Black Keys - Brothers After working on a surprising hip-hop experiment called BlakRoc and a solo album by Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys return with their first proper album since 2008's attack and release. Guitarist and vocalist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney continue their development as a group, working with guests and producers to flesh out their core sound and add different textures to their music. While straight up garage rock still remains their focus of the group's sound, there is a strong tinge of soulful R&B on this record. Mixing in deep soul with world weary R&B helps the band expand their range, and makes for a powerfully expressive record. Appropriately recorded for the most part in the Muscle Shoals, AL studio that gave birth to so many great soul albums in the 1960's, the lead-off track "Everlasting Light" sets the stage nicely with a gently chugging groove and vocals in a light and airy falsetto. The guys still remember how to go down in the alley with stinging guitars and ominous singing underpinning "Next Girl" and "Ten Cent Pistol." The track "Sinister Kid" pulls all of these influences together with lean guitars and a thick beat laying the foundation for deep strong singing. While this album may lack the visceral impact of their stark, hard rocking earlier album, the music has become deeper and more thoughtful, pulling together all of their diverse influences and interests and weaving them into a unique and diverse whole.
The White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights The White Stripes have been relatively inactive during the past few years due to the debilitating anxiety problems suffered by drummer Meg White and guitarist and singer Jack White's directing his energy to other bands, notably The The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. This album is something of a placeholder for the band, it's a soundtrack for the film of the same name, chronicling their tour in 2007 Canadian tour. The duo has always been a powerful life act, and the music on this album bears that out. Jack White's powerful guitar and near hysterical vocals and Meg White's potent yet primitive drums drive the music ever forward, with Jack adding some huge slabs of keyboards and organ to change up the texture on "The Union Forever" and "Ball and Biscuit." But apart from that, they wisely stick to their bread and butter, scalding garage rock honed to a very tight edge. Piledrivers like the singles "Blue Orchid" and "Icky Thump" play off nicely against the potent yearning of the dynamic yearning of "Jolene" and lighter pop fare like "We are Going to Be Friends." It's a very solid live album and both the soundtrack and the DVD provide ample evidence for the bands continued success.
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Unnatural Ways - We Aliens (Tzadik, 2016) ****
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