Album Review: The Black Keys – Turn Blue

The Black Keys are by far one of the best bands around right now, with good reason. The blues rock duo, consisting of Dan Auerbach (Guitars, Vocals) and Patrick Carney (Drums) have gone from playing to a couple of thousand people per night, to selling out arenas worldwide due to the successes of hit singles like Lonely Boy and Gold on the Ceiling. This week, The Black Keys released their new studio album Turn Blue, a record which has received praise from critics all around the world. Read on to find out what makes the Danger Mouse-produced Turn Blue the most exciting album of 2014 so far.

Weight of Love kicks the album off with intertwining guitars and a xylophone melody, before a fuzzy guitar takes centre stage for a long-winding solo. Just over 90 seconds in, everything dies down as a bass guitar takes the lead, as the song starts to establish a steady pace. It’s here where Auerbach’s trademark vocals enter the song. The double-layered vocals in the chorus are a nod to the Black Keys we’ve learnt to love, but at a much slower pace than we’re accustomed to. Another gritty solo follows the chorus, as the song slowly progresses towards a bluesy ending. At almost 7 minutes long, it’s the longest song the duo have ever made, as well as one of the most explosive beginnings to a record in a long time. In Time follows, with bluesy piano, Carney’s booming bass drum and a big melody taking the lead here. Auerbach sings in falsetto, with more trademark Black Keys elements and a big chorus entering the frame, before the title track keeps the steady pace going with 70s guitars and waspy keyboards. The chorus is very memorable, showcasing the duo’s ability to make big tracks perfect for arenas and festival headlining sets.

Lead single Fever speeds up the pace with a catchy melody, funky bassline and even bigger chorus. When it was first released, many saw it as a departure from old Black Keys, yet the song is covered in trademark Black Keys elements. Year in Review follows, with Western-esque vocals taking the lead before string flourishes accompany Auerbach’s vocals. The chorus features female vocals once more, perfectly contrasting from Auerbach’s raspy tone. New single Bullet in the Brain starts off with acoustic guitars and light cymbal crashes, as airy vocals, a light guitar line and pacey verses lead into an epic rock-out like no other. It may well be one of the best things The Black Keys have ever created, which says a lot considering the quality of songs on Turn Blue alone. It’s Up To You Now starts with tribal-esque percussion beats and a scuzzy riff, remaining at an intense pace throughout the course of the track, before an extended instrumental outro precedes Waiting on Words. This one starts with indie rock guitars before remaining at a slower pace, before building up towards the end. Guitar chords are backed up with 70s synths as Auerbach returns to falsetto for the duration of the song, something which he does quite often (and quite well) throughout the record.

10 Lovers is one of the funkiest tracks on the album, with a squeaky synth melody and jazz organ accompanying grooving bass and more falsetto vocals. The acoustic guitar takes a little step back, before In Our Prime’s personal lyrics bring the guitar back to its gritty prominence. As it progresses, In Our Prime becomes quite an epic by Black Keys standards, with an extended guitar solo towards the end before fading out and making way for the album closer, Gotta Get Away. The 60s blues rock influences are very, very clear as the album ends on an extremely upbeat note with happy sounding synths and positive lyrics. Gotta Get Away is short, sweet and the perfect way for Turn Blue to end.

Turn Blue is a sonic rollercoaster, and by far one of the standout records of 2014. It’s The Black Keys doing what they do best, whilst still progressing by introducing new styles to their music. 2014 is the year that The Black Keys will go from “almost there”, to “right up there”. Watch out, because The Black Keys are not going to leave your sight for the next 12+ months, and that’s with a good reason.


Turn Blue is out now.