Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Black Keys - El Camino

Barely stopping to catch a breath, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach bum rush through El Camino like cats in heat. The high-octane guitar, organ, drums and even bells and chimes all seem to move together, surging forward in adrenaline-riddled spurts. While the duo has always attributed their rhythmic focus to their mutual love for old hip-hop and R&B, these songs were dipped in pure rock and roll. “Money Maker” is hearkens to the bluesy side, while “Little Black Submarines” slowly builds from an acoustic ballad a la Blitzen Trapper to fuzzy metal riffage. Album opener, “Lonely Boy,” is the best of the bunch, a rollicking good time with raw edges. It’s as danceable as anything they’ve ever done.

Lamenting love gone wrong on nearly every song, the subject matter is nothing new. But it’s what these two do best, and when Auerbach howls “she's bound to break ya" on "Money Maker," you want to shake the hand of the gold digger who inspired such fiery feelings. "All this love of mine/And all my precious time/You'll waste it 'cause you/Don't know what you want," goes "Nova Baby," one of the few songs where Auerbach takes his guitar for a high-flying solo. Sometimes the lyrics swing and miss, like the gag moment on "Run Right Back," where Auerbach cries "She doesn't read too much/But there's no doubt/She's been written about/Finest exterior/She's so superior."

With the stinging attitude and upbeat grooves, though, El Camino surpasses all of its sad-sack tendencies. Each song is it's own piece of soulful groove. Throttling forward at full-force, this is The Black Keys’ most direct and consistent album yet. With the new audience the two have garnered from 2010’s Brothers, expect to hear these songs on everything from car commercials to the nearly extinct rock radio. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch, nor a moment to relax until you’ve ingested El Camino in full.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Washed Out - Within and Without

A few words on why you should listen to one of my favorite albums of the year:

More like blissed out. Within and Without captures the feeling of complete and pure contentment, and Ernest Greene holds onto this perfect state for more than forty minutes. Airy synthesizers wash over bloated beats, while his echoed vocals stretch over layers of gooey reverb. It’s a flawless dream, come to life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dr. Dog - Be the Void

In their most rockin’ album to date, Dr. Dog comes down from the clouds to unfurl their breezy pop from the ground. Infusing bluesy notes on “Lonesome,” and a high-pitched guitar riff on “How Long Must I Wait” that wouldn’t sound out of place on the last Black Keys album, the Philadelphia quintet finds a more distinct groove. The biting phrase “You destroy all that’s good here/at your will/there’s a part of me though that/loves you still,” comes out like venom on “Vampire,” a mid-tempo number where the narrator can’t help but be seduced by the evil monster in question. Much of the album has the same bite, thanks to its percussive jab that feels indebted to Elvis Costello.

Of course, as is always a highlight of Dr. Dog’s music, beautiful harmonies float like feathers atop frontman Scott McMicken’s punctuated vocals. “Do, do, do, trick, tr’ trick,” echoes through “Do the Trick” like doo wop making sweet love to The Beach Boys.

While 2010’s Shame, Shame took Dr. Dog on a more reflective, gloomier journey, Be the Void is the band’s reemergence into its escapist tendencies. The common ground lies in the glossy production, a far cry from early lo-fi recordings. It suits them, especially on “Heavy Light,” a foray into the islandy afro-pop popular with bands like Givers and Friendly Fires.

Seventies psychedelia chimes through the trippy “Warrior Man” and album closer “Turning the Century” (is that a sitar?). “Big Girl” is an epic barnburner that starts with a jagged guitar groove and culminates in the sort of keyboard-heavy climax that makes dreams come true. If these songs translate live, tour dates supporting Be the Void could be the most raucous we’ve seen Dr. Dog yet. It’s gonna be a fun ride.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Real Estate, I Love You

Dogs, grandma glasses, and guitars sunny enough to fit on a Fleet Foxes record? Goddammit, my love of hipsters has been renewed! This song, but really, the whole album (Days) is one of those that you can overplay times a billion, and still feel perfectly serene at each listen. It is gummy, glowing pop music with the perfect warmth. I could wrap myself in this music and all of a sudden everything in my life would come together in perfect harmony.

It may have a bit of a Rogue Wave vibe, and so maybe it's not groundbreaking. Maybe I'm settling into my old age (24, so freakin old guys, my back hurts) and I don't need avant garde controversy in my brain. Maybe I just want to sit and listen to a song called "Kinder Blumen" because the title reminds me of smurfs and it's the kind of instrumental that needs no explanation in it's simple, repetitive glory. It's a less harsh Avi Buffalo with the same level of heart. And that bridge!

If you're looking for some comfort music that's guaranteed to up your day, check this out. It's undeniable, the reece's pieces to my candy-loving self. You're going to want to be friends with these guys. Because how can they make it seem so easy to chill out perfectly?