In the breezy fall days of October, when the trees changed their hues and long nights paid their dues, I thought to myself: I can’t wait for a new Black Keys album in 2012. I got on to YouTube and found out the band was not only recording a new album, but that it was slated to release in December of this year. I was psyched out of my mind. The blues rock duo returns again just one year after their Grammy-winning album Brothers, and I have to hand it to the band, they have an endless spool of creativity.
Vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney play so well together that it baffles me sometimes how they do it. They’ve seriously got something special. El Camino’s first track “Lonely Boy” proves this statement is the truth. In fact, this song is almost routine for the band. It’s got a hook, a fantastically memorable guitar line, and most of all, melodies that stick in your brain forever.
The rest of the album continues in the same fashion, only growing in depth and spirit along the way. “Gold On the Ceiling,” one of my personal favorite tracks, has a particularly fun keyboard part that complements the old school, stringy guitar riffs excellently. Slowing things down a bit, which their previous record did a lot with its 15 tracks, El Camino also features a small commodity of acoustic parts in more emotion-provoking songs like the Johnny Cash-esque “Little Black Submarines,” whose verse eventually speeds up into the Black Keys’ conventional groove. The piano-tinged singalong “Mind Eraser” and ironically named “Sister” (considering they have an album named Brothers) bring hints of melody and ingenuity that have never been, and hopefully never will be, lacking from this band.
This record, seemingly put together in no time, does not seem rushed or lacking in any department, musically or lyrically. With the help of producer Danger Mouse once again, listeners should be relieved. Everything’s in place; all of the instrumental parts are tightly wound with the crisp vocals. Though I would say this album sounds more along the lines of Brothers than any other Black Keys record, it definitely sounds more focused and compact. El Camino is a record that feels old school and slightly straightforward, while having the particular polish and fuzzy vocals from Auerbach that make this band godlike in the realms of the music world.
El Camino isn’t as good as Attack & Release. Heck, it may not even be as good as Brothers. But it is still a fantastic release, proving that The Black Keys have a sort of collaborative skill that is almost unheard of in music today. This record is vintage Black Keys, plain and simple; they don’t change a lot, but they perfect a winning formula. El Camino is a great blues rock album from a band that feels more intuitive and only increases my interest level every single time I hear their music.