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The Black Keys Brothers [Nonesuch]

Songs for Singles

Torche [Hydra Head]

The only complaint anybody with functional ears/ heart/nether regions could levy at this band is that eight songs in 22 minutes = EP, not LP, brothers. But as Nick Green pointed out in our October feature on the Miami-based “thunder pop” overlords, “The beauty of Torche’s music—especially with the jukebox format the band has adopted on Songs for Singles—is that it encourages you to approach it with open ears and draw your own associations.” Frontman Steve Brooks drew inspiration from sources as disparate as My Bloody Valentine and Van Halen to concoct these eight distinctive Singles, but through the miracles of a) savvy sequencing, and b) an unfuckwithable sense of identity, SFS boils down to one potent, kickass, highly evolved slab of Torche. “U.F.O.” launches their poppiest instincts into orbit, then the ensuing 52 seconds of “Lay Low” machine-guns them into a sludge shake of half-Melvins and halfFloor (Brooks’ influential bottom-heavy predecessor.) The multiple fits and starts are more Universal Studios theme park ride than actual rollercoaster— you thrill to the hairpin turns, but never come close to barfing it all up. And hey, if Mike Huckabee approves (and believe it or not, we’re not being facetious), they have to be doing something… well, not right, but satisfyingly demented. —Andrew Bon-

Considering their personal turmoil and professional overextension, it’s amazing the Black Keys could concentrate on a new album. Before tracking the excellent, diverse Brothers, the Keys embarked on several side excursions: guitarist Dan Auerbach’s production duties (including the new Jessica Lea Mayfield), his wonderfully nuanced solo album, 2009’s Keep It Hid and drummer Patrick Carney’s new outfit, appropriately dubbed Drummer, and their 2009 debut, Feel Good Together. The pair also collaborated with rapper Jim Jones in Blackroc, a project that included, among others, Mos Def, Raekwon and Ludacris. Throw in Carney’s recent divorce and Brooklyn move, and it would seem Brothers was impacted by numerous forces. With the Blackroc sessions—where the duo utilized bass lines and wrote keyboard-based songs beyond their methodology—fresh in the Keys’ minds, their writing sessions were shaped by their recent hip-hop/soul experience, and that spirit inhabits a great deal of Brothers. The Keys injected funky swing and indie-blues-meets-Curtis-Mayfield soul into their psychedelic blues swamp groove, but regardless of their sonic mood, Auerbach and Carney’s lyrical concerns were never more personally illuminating or emotionally naked; even songs that aren’t necessarily autobiographical come from raw and wounded places that translate pain into creative expression. For anyone thinking there’s no evolution for a two-man blues group, Brothers is powerful evidence to the contrary. —BB




Dimple Records' In-Store Magazine, December 2010  
Dimple Records' In-Store Magazine, December 2010  

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