By Jeremy Foote
El Camino, the newest release from Ohio band Black Keys, lives up to the expectations set by their previous album, Brothers, while moving in a different creative direction. The duo, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney, have become alternative music icons. Their music makes abundantly clear why this is the case. Lonely Boy, the record’s lead single, ties back to an earlier age with its heavy bass guitar line reminiscent of The Clash or T.Rex. This sets the tone for the rest of the album, which consists largely of uptempo tracks that bring about a certain timeless rock and roll feel, while maintaining a contemporary voice. Another popular track is Little Black Submarines, which starts off slowly but breaks out into two minutes of wonderful electric guitar riffs that really get your foot tapping. Gold on the Ceiling also features prominent guitar sections, with a steadier bass that resonates perfectly with Auerbach’s intentionally off pitch vocals.
However, what I love about this band is that they are not afraid to experiment with their style. Their earlier albums (like Rubber Factory) play up more gritty, Western elements, while Brothers (especially songs like Howlin’ for You) has a more modern vibe. The fact that the Black Keys are able to constantly evolve musically speaks to their range and creativity as artists. Moreover, none of the songs on the album were written before the pair went into the studio. Their creative method consists of improvisation – just going in and banging out a song, so to speak. The result is a release that brings out the best of the Black Keys in a new, assertive way. The album, released as a whole on December 6th, has since received critical acclaim as one of their best releases.