The boys from Akron are back. This month, the Black Keys unveiled their follow up to their 2010 critically acclaimed Brothers. It’s called El Camino and it’s awesome. This time around, the Keys reteam with Danger Mouse, their producer on 2008’s Attack & Release as well as their 2010 hit single “Tighten Up”. Where as Brothers was a darker soul/blues album, its successor is much poppier and upbeat while the guitar tones have more of that Jack White “Icky Thump”-era bite.
Die-hard Black Keys "fans" might be turned off by the slickness of El Camino’s production, but haters can go jump off a bridge. The Black Keys are no longer that little band playing clubs and recording on analog tape machines in their basements. As they head off on their first headlining arena tour, they are deservedly one of the biggest and best bands in America. On El Camino, the band experiments with new things like multi-layered harmonies, bells and a greater usage of organs and synths. However, the Black Keys sound has always been defined by Dan Auerbach howling blues vocals, dirty-garage guitar and Patrick Carney’s straightforward, but hard-hitting drumming. These elements are still at the record’s core. Therefore, the Black Keys signature sound is still there as the band explores new territory.
As to the essential tracks: the opening song “Lonely Boy” is classic Black Keys and one of the catchiest things they’ve ever written. “Gold On The Ceiling” and “Money Maker” are a lot of fun too. However, the biggest gem of El Camino is “Little Black Submarine”. It’s starts off as a quiet unassuming folk song and blows up into garage-blues ecstasy. It’s their answer to “Stairway To Heaven” and the guitar solo will smoke your eyelids off and leave your speakers steaming.