July 11, 2014

There's a lot of things I like about this album, mostly having to do with the Keys moving away from a lot of their stylistic habits and trying out new things. The first thing I noticed was that the arrangements are full and well thought-out without being too excessive, as I felt El Camino was. What was excessive about El Camino? Well, it had a lot of instruments playing unison parts and not enough harmonic interplay between them, which they remedied in folds on this album. Everything has its own place and sits in the mix very nicely, the production staff being savvy enough to let some instruments take a backseat to more important parts of the arrangement at certain points. I also noticed that the effects feel very natural and don't disrupt the tone of any of the original instruments, which is also nice. Another thing that made a big difference here was the change in playing style as well. Pat's beats are more dynamic and groovy while Dan's soloing finally started incorporating some non-chord tones that aren't blue notes, which makes for some very interesting melodic sequences. Finally and most importantly, the song structures have changed. This album is in no way a singles record; each track has its own identity and takes its time to build and grow, no cranking out any verse-chorus ditties in three minutes or less here. All of these good things have come together in what might be my favorite Black Keys album yet.

Got any favorite stylistic departures in a band's catalog?

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