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Feature: The Essential Black Keys

By ; May 29, 2013 at 11:43 AM 

15: “Your Touch” – Magic Potion

From the goofy guitar intro to the start-and-stop drumbeat and the imperfect time signature, there is something off-kilter throughout. Even so, it is an easy-to-digest rock song that appears in countless commercials, shows, movies, and more. People may mock those artists that heavily license their music but there is nothing wrong about making a song that many audiences can appreciate. The Black Keys do just that time and time again.

14: “Psychotic Girl” – Attack & Release

On Attack & Release, for the first time, the band recorded an album in a studio and hired an outside producer. The Keys teamed up with famed producer Danger Mouse and his influence is heard in the simplified song structure and crisper sound. It’s with Danger Mouse that the band would create their most successful work, “Tighten Up” and El Camino.

On “Psychotic Girl” the band trades in their signature frenzied garage-rock stylings for a hip-hop backbeat, ever-so-slight banjo, and an ethereal ambience. It is a completely new sound for the band, however, they sound as natural playing it as they do their earlier cuts.

13: “I’ll Be Your Man” – The Big Come Up

Compare this track to anything off of El Camino and you would never think that you’re listening to the same band. “I’ll Be Your Man” reminds listeners of how far the band has come from rocking basements in Akron, Ohio. There are fewer hooks and fills than your average Keys song, however, this stripped-down and back-to-the-basics blues-rock exhibits the band’s earliest influences.

12: “When The Lights Go Out” – Rubber Factory

Sparse and ominous, “When The Lights Go Out” is a departure from the standard Black Keys fare on the raucous Rubber Factory. An undulating violin dominates the backline, unsettling listeners and injecting the track with heightened nervousness. Auerbach plays a crisp blues guitar as Carney tempers his drumming.

A tamer track, “When The Lights Go Out” shows that The Black Keys can make quality tracks without delving into the same frantic formula and lays the groundwork for many tracks on Attack and Release and Auerbach’s solo album, Keep It Hid.

11: “I Got Mine” – Attack & Release

“I Got Mine” is classic Black Keys track with its hooky riffs and crash-filled drums, however, transposed within the parameters of a newer sound. At about 2 minutes in, the song changes to a mix of low chanting above spacey sounds—as psychedelic as the band has ever been. Soon after, the band pulls back the reigns and slams the song home with the same intensity that they started with.

If “I Got Mine” were on any of the band’s earlier three albums, it would be about a minute shorter and would have skipped the false ending. “I Got Mine” shows the band experimenting with new sounds and different song structures. By the hysterical reaction of audiences whenever this song is played live, it worked.

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