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Black Keys El Camino Album Review

Keith Demolder, Staff Writer

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Band-The Black Keys

Album-El Camino

Record Label-Nonesuch

Album #-7th

Sales-Platinum (1,000,000)

The Black Keys, a two man band of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney out of Akron, Ohio have redefined popular rock as we know it today, using their intense blend of soulful blues with indie-garage rock in order to create a uniquely amazing alternative sound. Their 6th album, Brothers with their hit “Tighten Up”, put The Black Keys on the map, reaching platinum and number three on the Billboard 200. The Black Keys follow-up to their three-Grammy-award-winning album Brothers,  El Camino, has been perhaps their most popular album to date. Despite the noticeable difference in amount of songs from their previous album (17 to 11), El Camino makes up for it in the album’s overall musical content. With hits like “Lonely Boy”, ‘Gold on the Ceiling”, “Little Black Submarines”, and “Run Right Back”, El Camino exemplifies the Black Keys’ trademark alternative garage band sound in an age when the entire alternative music genre is defined as a group of one-hit wonders. The Black Keys have consistently upheld their alternative rock image with their chart topping music and haven’t showed signs of stopping anytime soon. The Dodge Grand Voyager on the cover and the album title “El Camino“(‘The Road’ in English) embody the band’s journey from a little start up band, playing in clubs in Akron, Ohio to a nationally renowned musical experience. Their latest musical installment, El Camino, is a timeless testament to their influence on modern alternative music.

  1. “Lonely Boy”-3:13- With great Auerbach guitar riffs and soulful chorus hymns, “Lonely Boy” is the most popular and upbeat track of this album. “Lonely Boy” is a classic not only for its catchy chorus lines, but for its dynamic guitar sound featured throughout the song. Can’t say enough about this song. A-
     
  2. “Dead and Gone”-3:41- Great song for its seemingly dark and definitive bass and its western, wide-open sounding, clapping chorus. Seemingly repetitive chorus lines make “Dead and Gone” consistently solid rather than drab and predictable. The clapping and drumming give the listener a beat that they can easily tap their foot or bob their head to. The chorus’ “dun-nuh-nah- Ohh-oh-oh” leaves the listener wanting the song to never end, just a continuous “dun-nuh-nah- Ohh-oh-oh.”B+
  3. “Gold on the Ceiling”-3:44- One of my personal favorites from this album. Auerbach’s “They wanna’ get my” lines are still stuck in my head till this day. Also the chorus’ eerie back and forth from echo and distant to emphatic, make “Gold on the Ceiling” one of the great tracks from this album. The utilization of the synthesizer throughout the song, gives ‘Gold on the Ceiling” a kind of rocking, bad boy sound that is the primary feeling every Black Keys song will give you. A-
  4. “Little Black Submarines”-4:11- Absolutely awesome acoustic beginning. The intro starts with Auerbach on acoustic calmly singing the soulful lyrics of ‘Little Black Submarine”. Operator please give me more acoustic Black Keys because I can’t get enough of this song. The calmness of the song is a strange occurrence for the usual rhythmic and upbeat Black Keys; however Auerbach’s vocals and slow acoustic chords assure the listener that ‘Little Black Submarines” is surely one of The Black Keys finest. Although the acoustic intro is awesome, the song’s transition to a total B.A. rock song is the reason “Little Black Submarines” continues to amaze me. Auerbachs slaying guitar solos take the song’s first half acoustic, soft-spoken lyrics and turn them into an effervescent alternative rock classic. A+
  5. “Money Maker”-2:57-Another return to The Black Keys’ signature garage band sound features synth solos and raspy Auerbach vocals. Although “Money Maker” may not be The Black Keys’ most flashy or rhythmic single, it still has the passionate, alternative, and indie sound that we have come to expect from The Black Keys.-B-
  6. “Run Right Back”-3:17- The beginning guitar riff reminds me of perhaps Led Zeppelin with a little bit different sound. “Run Right Back” is yet another upbeat Black Keys original, leaving your head bobbing and your soul grooving. The guitar, as always, fast paced and fervid and the bass setting up the beat. “Run Right Back” has the attitude of a break-up song without all of the touchy-feely feeling that most songs have and that’s why it’s such a great song.-B+
  7. “Sister”-3:25- One of the more underrated songs in El Camino.One of the more dark and seductive songs in this album, a refreshing change of pace from the usual upbeat tracks from The Black Keys. The sections after the main chorus are golden, whenever there is a change in tempo that involves clapping, I’m all for it. “Sister” exemplifies the alternative and rebellious nature of The Black Keys, with the hard synths and guitar chords. The best part of “Sister” is the lyrics which have a sort of break-up feel, all the while staying mysterious and rogue. Great track. –A
  8. “Hell of a Season”-3:45- “Hell of a Season” really starts the less listened to section of El Camino, however “Hell of a Season” is a hell of a song. I love the slow guitar and the frequent tempo changes, really gives depth to this song. Wish they had made it last a little bit longer, but it just goes to show how The Black Keys can leave you wanting more, which is a good thing by the way. Although the lyrics remain the same all throughout the song, The Black keys mix up the tempos and guitar chords enough to keep “Hell of a Season” as exiting in the first 30 seconds as the last 30 seconds.-B+
  9. “Stop Stop”-3:30- “Stop Stop” goes into a little bit of a Foster the People category because of it’s’ xylophone and less than powerful guitar. I’m not saying “Stop Stop” lulled me asleep, however it didn’t really pack as much punch vocally or instrumentally as some of The Black Keys’ other songs.-C
  10. “Nova Baby”-3:27- Has two varying sounds, one of a wide open 2000’s pop song and the original Black Keys’ garage rock, much of the song leaves me wanting more of the garage rock than the pop. “Nova Baby” does have some good parts I’ll admit, but they aren’t powerful enough to bring the entire song together.-C-
  11. “Mind Eraser”-3:15- Starts off with a great piano riff, reminiscent of ‘Pretty Woman” from ELO. The piano throughout really givesEl Camino an added edge that I haven’t seen before, and in my opinion should be more utilized by Auerbach. Adding one or two piano songs to The Black Keys new album, could give the band another dimension and give them a better rounded sound. I love the chorus in this song, each time I listen to it, it gets better and better. The guitar in the chorus “Don’t let it be over” gives the appearance of perhaps a saxophone, showing The Black Keys’ rock and bluesy sound. “Mind Eraser” is a refreshing change of pace, letting the listener know that the Black Keys isn’t all about guitar solos and hard drum kits.-B+/A-

Overall- El Camino= A-

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Black Keys El Camino Album Review