Posts Tagged ‘Black Keys’


May 14, 2012

Felt like doing a quick list of some songs I really like that appear towards the end of an album.  A lot of artists front-load albums with the best songs and put the lesser stuff, experiments, or half-baked ideas towards the end.  Hey I know it’s tough to come up with an albumful of great songs.  I guess artists figure we’ll get bored after 5-6 songs (probably not a bad assumption in today’s music environment) and won’t here the middling stuff or will forgive it due to the greatness of the first half of the album.  But, every once in awhile, if you are patient and find a really great song buried in the latter quarter of an album.  A while ago, I wrote about a Strokes tune that closed out their debut, Take It Or Leave It.  Here’s a few others I’ve been listening to recently:

1) U2, Surrender from War (track 9 of 10) – An album that knocks it out of the park in the first third, then kind of hits the doldrums and picks up steam again in the last quarter.  Some great Edge guitar work and a very pretty chorus anchor a song that could compete with the hits from the same album.

2) TV On the Radio, DLZ from Dear Science (track 9 of 10) – A slow burner that keeps building in intensity, but never completely losing control.  A standout for me on the album where a lot of the hype from their first album (which I still haven’t ever taken much liking to as a complete work) gets realized.

3) De La Soul, The Art of Getting Jumped from Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (track 16 of 17) – A start-stop beat anchors this fast-paced rap about going to the club and getting “jumped”.  The chorus “jump jump jump to it” has a disco feel to it.  And the explanation at the end of song for its inclusion on the album is vintage De La humor.

4) Black Keys, Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be from Attack & Release (track 11 of 11).  Proving that they could tame some of that raw energy, slow things down and still make beautiful music, this is my favorite track from their Danger Mouse-produced album.  I think it’s also a precursor to the direction they’d take with the fantastic Brothers.

5) Chemical Brothers, Life is Sweet from Exit Planet Dust (track 9 of 11).  Electronic music seems particularly susceptible to the end of albums doldrums.  The Chemical Brothers not only succeeded in creating a cohesive album of electronica, but was able to do so without sacrificing quality.  This sprawling six-minute song kinda encapsulates what makes this such a great album; big booming beats colliding with spacey effects that make you want to dance and listen carefully at the same time (and a guest turn from Tim Burgess on vocals doesn’t hurt either).  The strange video for the radio-edit version below:



Spotify My Soul – November 1

November 29, 2011

A couple of weeks late due to traveling and work, but a few albums and singles and the best week ever for prog fans since Rush re-emerged in 1997?

  • Black Lips, Arabia Mountain.  The latest album from the Atlanta garage rockers, I was relieved to see they’d ditched some of the darker, slower numbers from the second half their last album.  I was wondering whether Mark Ronson’s influence (he produced the album) would be evident, but I didn’t really feel this was anything much different than other Black Lips albums, which is fine by me.  They still are standard bearers for the latest generation of garage rock bands.  Favorite song so far, the whistle-driven “Raw Meat.”
  • M83, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming.  Garnering a 9.1 review from Pitchfork that included some rapturous praise, I decided to check out this double-CD.  There’s some good stuff on here that veers toward shoegaze (my favorite track was “Wait”), but overall I wasn’t understanding the “epic”-ness that this album was characterized with.
  • Justice, Audio, Video, Disco.  Another album from an electronic artist, but this one is a serious curveball.  The French duo’s first album was full of some club-ready bangers, most notably the true-to-its-name “D.A.N.C.E.”  Their followup, while referencing disco in the title, has its main influence in the progressive rock of the 1970s (think Rush, Yes, Queen, etc.).  While I applaud their effort to pay homage to music that they obviously love, I have a feeling they didn’t really care if this alienated fans of their first album.  While songs like “Canon” are enjoyable as  pastiches of prog stomp (think Queen) and noodling, as an album it just didn’t hold up.
  • El-P, Rush Over Bklyn.  Continuing the prog revival is El-P with his latest single.  Ummm, yeah you probably weren’t expecting to ever read that sentence.  The independent MC and producer is known for dense, complicated beats and equally complex rhymes.  Released on Legitmix, a new outlet for artists to legally sample copyrighted music without going through sample-clearing process, El-P actually makes a hip-hop song work with the main samples consisting of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”.  You can listen to it here.
  • Black Keys, Lonely Boy.  Since this single came out, several other songs from the forthcoming El Camino have also been released.  So far, this would be the stand out track from the ones I’ve heard.  Continuing some of the more upbeat, less bluesy tunes on the fabulous Brothers album, this is a hard-charging tune that still packs in some cool riffs and a very catchy chorus.  And much like the Keys, a simple yet effective video accompanies the song:

Someone Published A List on the Internet, It Must Be Critiqued!

October 23, 2011

As I mentioned in my last Spotify post, NME, English indie music mag, celebrated the 15 year anniversary of its website with an ambitious 150 best songs of the past 15 years list.  And as the very astute MeadowMuffins pointed out to me once, lists are Internet gold because anyone who cares about the subject of the list is going to have an opinion about it.  So, a couple thoughts from this music lover:

  • A good chunk of the time period for the list was a dark ages of finding new music in the “indie rock” world as I generally had other stuff going on in my life and what new music I was into was mostly in the East Coast independent hip-hop scene and electronic music.  So, there’s some stuff from this list that I definitely want to check out.  The Foals and the Libertines each have a song in the top 20 and I don’t really know anything about them, much less have heard these two songs in particular.
  • Radiohead clocks in with 5 songs, including #1 Paranoid Android.  My thinking is that over a time period of 15 years, there’s so much music getting put out that any one band getting more than 2 songs in a list like this leaves me skeptical.  As for Paranoid Android, I can think of several songs on OK Computer that I would have put ahead of that song, so obviously it wouldn’t be my #1.
  • I’m a big Blur fan, so while I understand the inclusion of Song #2, it’s not really representative of some of the really good music in their post-1996 output.  Coffee & TV, if I had to choose one song, would be it.
  • I’d flip-flop White Stripes’ Fell In Love With a Girl and Seven Nation Army.  Seven Nation definitely would be in the top 10 for me, I can’t get enough of that beat.
  • Nothing from DangerMouse’s Grey Album?  The king of mashups didn’t have a song better than Crystal Castles?  I don’t think so.
  • Also no love for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  I could think of a few tracks that could easily make the list.  From their last album, say Money?
  • And probably the biggest omission, no Black Keys.  What?!  Their last album is an absolute classic, and opener Everlasting Light would be a top 20 track for me.
  • Glad that Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony got such a high rank.  Such a good song and kudos such is this is pretty much all the band gets from the song, thanks to Allen Klein.

Spotify My Soul – Aug. 21, 2011

August 21, 2011

This week was a heavy on the retro tip for me, looking back at albums I either haven’t listened to in a long time, or never got around to listening to.

  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless.  Even though I was always a fan of shoegaze, I never had given more than a cursory to a seminal work in the genre.  This is an album that deserves all the accolades that it has received since it’s release in 1991.  Noise with a purpose, the texturing and layering of sound is beautiful stuff.
  • Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed.  Unlike the Beatles or the Who, I have never gotten through the album discography of the Stones.  The hits from this album are many, so a lot of these songs I’d heard, but put together in the album it takes on a whole new dimension.  Midnight Rambler is still one of my favorite Stones songs; Monkey Man is a strong track I’d never heard (and was clipped in a hip hop song that I’m struggling to remember, urg).
  • Black Keys, Magic Potion.  I’d gotten their first couple releases, and their latest; but had never made an attempt to get this or Attack & Release.  Not sure why, this is a solid record that I plan on listening to some more.
  • James Blake, James Blake.  Released earlier this year, and fawned over by Pitchfork and its ilk, I’d been wanting to see what the buzz was about.  Like Loveless, these are nuanced compositions that deserve multiple listens.  The music is coupled with a surprisingly sweet voice to create some soothing songs.
  • Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi, Rome.  Continuing to create gold with whatever he touches, Danger Mouse’s latest is a collaboration with Italian composer Daniele Luppi that serves as an homage to the soundtracks of spaghetti westerns.  I really liked the laid back tracks he created as musical backdrop for James Mercer’s vocals on last year’s Broken Bells release and I got the same feeling from this album, though this time the vocals come courtesy of Norah Jones and Jack White (glad he was able to find employment again).

Best of 2010

December 19, 2010

It wouldn’t be a music blog if I didn’t do some sort of end of year wrapup.  Problem is, while I listen to a lot of music, new music isn’t always on the menu.  I’m not sure I could even come up with a top ten albums released in 2010 since I’m not sure I listened to 10 entire albums that were made this year.  So, instead I wanted to highlight some good stuff I found this year regardless of its age (I thought this was an ingenious idea until I saw that AVCLUB had already done the same thing, oh well).

  • LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (album, 2010).  A terrific album from beginning to end.  The album opener, Dance Yrself Clean, is also one of my favorite songs of the year.  Lyrically, James Murphy is at his wittiest and musically he continues to evolve from just floor-burning dance tunes to really nuanced, but still danceable, songs.  And seeing them live was a revelation.  It was one of the best shows I’ve been to in quite awhile.
  • Black Keys – Brothers (album, 2010).  I’ve been a huge fan of the Keys since their first album, but I think on this album they took it to another level.  For their first couple albums it was straightforward blues-based rock, but here they are spreading their wings, with some definite glam-rock influences and adding other instrumentation beyond that bruising drum and guitar.  Another band I finally got to see live this year and they didn’t disappoint either.
  • Broken Bells – The High Road (single, 2010).  Pairing the sonic tapestries of Dangermouse with the crystal clear voice of Shins lead singer James Mercer sounds like a good idea to me, and this song is proof it was.  The song begins with playful electronic noises and then gets a more orchestral bent as the music and Mercer’s vocals soar.  This song really has a positive and inspiring vibe; it’s a great pick-me-up.
  • Gang Starr – Obviously this was going back to one of early 90s rap’s signature groups.  With the passing of MC Guru this year, I spent some time revisiting their music.  I had never realized how many of their songs I really liked.  Everyone knows Mass Appeal, but there are a bunch of other songs they have that are just a notch below that masterpiece.  Premier’s beats are almost always exquisite and Guru’s gravelly delivery worked so well with those beats.  RIP Guru.
  • White Stripes – Under Great White Northern Lights (album and documentary, 2010).  I have never gotten to see the White Stripes live, but this album and the documentary which I saw do a pretty great job of making you feel like you’ve been to a show.  Even harder and louder than in the studio, these are great foot-stomping rock n’ roll songs.   The documentary bares the painful shyness of Meg White, leaving one to wonder how many more times we’ll get to hear these two play together.
  • Taj Mahal and Vampire Weekend – Why do I mention these two artists together.  Because whenever I hear one of their songs, I feel happy and upbeat.  Both are artists I know only marginally, and I’m trying to get up to speed on both.  Taj is nominally a blues artist, but he puts a lot of other musical styles into his songs, including reggae and Caribbean rhythms.  Vampire Weekend also is nominally a rock band, but they also let their other influences show, including various Afro styles.
  • Sleigh Bells – Treats (album, 2010) – When I went to see them at this year’s VirginFest I wondered why they only were given a half hour set, but then realized their debut album was only a couple minutes longer.  But boy do they pack a lot of sound into that 32 minutes.  While some see the loud guitar/beats with the bubble-gummy lyrics as a gimmick, I don’t see it any more of a gimmick than a lot of other bands in 2010 (and before) doing similar things.  Sleigh Bells just does it more over the top than anyone else.  For me, the beats are what keep me coming back.
  • Scott Down and DJ Cutler – Ultimate Breaks and Beatles (album, 2010).  Found about this interesting project via Soulsides, this is not an attempt to create another Grey Album.  Instead, they blend all kinds of Beatles music (including covers by Jimi Hendrix and others) with famous hip-hop breaks.  While there are some misses, when it all locks together it’s pretty amazing stuff.  Also, trying to identify what song a break is from is fun too.
  • KMD – Boy Who Cried Wolf (from Mr. Hood, 1991).  Sometimes a song just clicks for you.  I’d finally gotten a copy of KMD’s Mr. Hood and it’s a really good album.  But when I heard this song, I was mesmerized.  I could listen to the beat all day long, loping and laid-back but with a bite.  The chorus “he’s a woolllfff, and you a sheep” his super-catchy and the verses pop along with the snare in the beat.

I didn’t include Kanye’s new album, which I have but haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet, though I’ve heard nothing but good things.  Same goes for the new Walkmen album and Sharon Jones’ latest.  Enjoy the holidays and looking forward to another new year of music.

First Tracks

June 17, 2010

When the Lights Go Out – Black Keys from Rubber Factory

Last weekend, Sarah and I listened to a great podcast on our drive from Key West to Miami.  NPR’s All Songs Considered did a show discussing great first album tracks.  A first track often sets the tone for the rest of the album and in the case of an artist moving in a new direction, it’s the chance to convince fans to stick with the rest of the album.  A lot of their selections were rightly from the heyday of the album, the 60s and 70s.  Some that has to be attributed to the rise of the mp3 and the supposed death of the “album.”  But, there are still bands out there that are still in the album-making business, and the Black Keys are certainly one of those.

2004’s Rubber Factory was the Keys’ third album, but my first proper introduction to the band.  When the Lights Go Out is a fantastic opening track.  On the NPR podcast, they talked about how the good openers either were fast-paced and up-tempo or had an ethereal, almost not-there vibe.  This track is neither of those.  It’s slow, but it’s surely not airy.  Patrick Carney’s drums are beefy and Dan Auerbach’s guitar screeches and then settles into a bluesy riff.  Dan’s lyrics are sung like a classic bluesman.  The whole affair has a dirty vibe to it, I imagine this being played in a basement, with a flickering light bulb, the guys playing amongst boxes and discarded furniture.

The other thing is that there is a pent up energy in this track.  The song ends with Dan sayin “alright” as the drums stop and the guitar gives us a few more tortured bars.  It’s almost like a declaration of ok, we’re warmed up now.  You know these guys can let loose and rock the house, but you’re going to have to stick around to hear it.  And they do.  Psyched to see these guys play in a month.

Anyone else got some killer first tracks they love?