At once old-timey but forward-thinking, the 11 songs on Attack & Release boast the intimate homegrown shagginess of the Black Keys' previous releases, but with numerous nuanced musical and production shimmers winningly integrated by producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz).
The Black Keys — the Akron, Ohio-based duo of guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney — have been termed "medium-fi" blues rock, but Attack & Release will add several more descriptions to that now too-limiting category. Dimensional and creative, with some trip-hoppier moments working well with banjo, organ, flute and more traditional Black Keys elements, the duo succeeds in opening up more without selling out.
"I Got Mine" boasts the fuzzy tones and blues authenticity of former label mate R.L. Burnside, while on the captivating "Strange Times," Auerbach shares a plaintive, sometimes mystical vocal quality and musical sensibility with producer/singer Chris Goss' band, late '80s-early '90s stoner rockers Masters of Reality. Other tunes, like on "Lies," they mesh an epic quality with a timeless immediacy, making it lush, visual and "soundtrack-y" in the best David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino sense, while an interesting aural exercise is two versions of the same song: The delicate yearning of "Remember When (Side A)" gets revved- and raved-up as 'Remember When (Side B)."
On the melancholy album closer, "Things Ain't Like They Used to Be," Auerbach is joined, beautifully, by 18-year-old bluegrass/country singer Jessica Lea Mayfield. And it's those "extras" that make Attack & Release shine. It's said that the majority of the Black Keys' 2003 album Thickfreakness was recorded in 14 hours during one day, while Attack & Release took about a month. And the extra time, production and players — including guitarist Marc Ribot and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney — worked to fine effect. The Black Keys have put one foot out of the basement and into the light...without shedding their underground skins in the process.
The Black Keys play Tuesday, April 15, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980.
Katherine Turman writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.