The Black Keys, Brothers (Nonesuch, 2010)

The Black Keys are a duo from Akron, Ohio consisting of Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar and Patrick Carney on drums. After a brief hiatus in which Auerbach recorded a pretty good solo album called Keep It Hid, the band return this summer with their sixth studio album, called Brothers.

On Brothers, Auerbach and mostly branch out from the sparse but aggressive two-instrument sound of their earlier work. Most of the songs have at least some overdubbing, particularly bass guitar (played by Auerbach). The duo aim for a bit more of a soulful and danceable feel on a few of the tracks, including the single "Tighten Up,"the groovy but abrasive "Sinister Kid" and a cover of Jerry Butler's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (thankfully no relation to the Rick Astley song). This generally works well enough, but when Auerbach tries to sing falsetto like on the opening song "Everlasting Light," he misfires badly. Some aspects of the sound remain unchanged, though. Auerbach's affinity for vacuum tube amps continues to give his guitar playing a distinctively retro-sounding distortion, for example. And he remains at his best when he does swampy, bluesy, gritty rockers like "She's Long Gone."

With Brothers, The Black Keys recognize the need to try to diversify their sound. Their intentions are good, but the results are a bit mixed.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott

the video for "Tigthen Up"

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