By: The Busted Amp Staff
DEREK: I've always been a fan of side projects. They give a musician the chance to flex their creative muscles and release something that isn't in the same vein as their main band. In many ways, a side project can be a breath of fresh air and rejuvenate what can become a stagnant, monotonous album cycle process when working with the same band album after album.
Dan Auerbach is no stranger to side projects. He released two albums with side projects back in 2009 - his fantastic solo debut Keep It Hid and the rap collaboration project Blackroc, featuring fellow Black Keys bandmate Patrick Carney and a number of hip-hop artists. Both of those projects were released the year before Brothers, their biggest album at that point in their career. That album garnered two Grammy wins and catapulted them into the mainstream spotlight as one of the biggest rock acts in the world.
Nearly six years later, on the heels of The Black Keys' latest release, Turn Blue, Auerbach is back at it, this time as The Arcs. Featuring Richard Swift, The Black Keys' touring keyboardist, the album sounds like Turn Blue meets the Southwest USA. It's a soulful, desert-infused cruise through Auerbach's mind. Album opener "Outta My Mind" sounds like it could have been included in Turn Blue, especially with Swift's falsetto. The smoky, echoed vocals, atmospheric effects, and buzzed guitar solo take you on a trip, one that Danger Mouse tried (and ultimately failed) to produce on Turn Blue, and I can't help but think that this album is a "Take Two" of sorts on Turn Blue, without the pressure of being in the spotlight as The Black Keys or having Danger Mouse vomit on every track.
The Latino influence on Yours, Dreamily, is obvious. From the album art, to the added flair of New York City all female Mariachi band Flor de Toloache, Auerbach and gang capture the feeling with ease. Recently, the band even played their first live show in a historically Latino-populated neighborhood in LA. Coupled with Auerbach’s familiar voice and guitar work, Yours, Dreamily,makes for a fun ride. “Pistol Made of Bone” is the biggest beneficiary of the added Latino style. A Western in the truest sense, with echoed gunshots (whip?), yelps, and other effects, the song brings back memories of former Keys “pistol” favorite “Ten Cent Pistol”. Speaking of effects, the production on this album is spot on. Auerbach already has a Grammy for Producer of the Year from his work on El Camino and with Dr. John, and this album only adds to his phenomenal resume; every instrument pops exactly where it needs to be, and none of the additional effects, whether the atmospheric birds chirping and the saxophone on “Everything You Do (You Do For You)” , the aforementioned gunshots, or the mariachi band, every element has a distinct purpose and the product is a clear, concise concept that holds true for the duration of the album.
As much as I’d love for The Black Keys to return to the studio for a new album to rid the disappointing taste of Turn Blue from my mouth, if this is what Auerbach puts out in the meantime, I’m not going to complain.
My Number: 7/10
JOSEPH: Derek, I couldn't agree more. This album is Turn Blue 2.0, aka the way Dan Auberbach wanted it to be. Well, at least the first half is. "Outta My Mind" has quickly become one of my favorite songs of the year so far, and it could've easily stood out as the best song on Turn Blue. This album overall definitely benefits from the lack of Danger Mouse chewing up every song he can get his paws on, (I'll stop with the mouse puns now) and nowhere is this more relevant than on the second song of the album, "Put a Flower in Your Pocket." This song is masterfully balanced by Auberbach, and it is a real treat to listen to on a really nice pair of cans. The fact that the song features an instrumental line that has been stuck in my head for a week now is a nice plus as well.
I was honestly getting ready to call this one of the best albums of the year. The first 10 songs or so are fantastic, and they feel like a more polished and refined version of what Auberbach envisioned when he changed the game up with Turn Blue. But to say this album goes off the rails in the final few songs is something of an understatement. Maybe I'm too old at this point to really appreciate the artistic choice of having sexual noises prevalent all throughout "Come and Go." Maybe I just didn't get what Auberbach was trying to do with "Searching the Blue." But. similar to Turn Blue, once again my least favorite part of Auberbach's latest album is the end. Starting with "Chains of Love," this album takes such a hard right that it lost me in the process. I mean I guess I shouldn't expect pure perfection from anyone, but I mean c'mon Dan. What were you thinking? I sure don't know.
Were it not for these last few songs, we were heading to 10 land on my review of this album. But the keyword here is "were." I guess the plus side is that the bad songs are at the end, so I'll have no problem listening to this album over and over and just skipping the final few songs. However at the end of the day, I'm with Derek. As much as I want to see The Black Keys jump into the studio for another go at a rodent-free follow-up to Turn Blue, I will be perfectly content listening to this album in the meantime. Even though I do miss me some Patrick Carney drums. Can I get a 45-minute album featuring only Carney drum solos?
My Number: 9/10
The Busted Amp Final Score: 8/10
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.