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Turn Blue marks another shift in the Black Keys’ musical direction. On their eighth album together, members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney mine 60s-tinted psychedelic rock and fortify such influences with their trademark guitar and drums rumble. Whereas the duo’s Brothers and El Camino are made for big speakers, Auerbach has called Turn Blue a “headphones record.” The label certainly applies to tracks like “Waiting on Words” and “10 Lovers,” both graced with swirling jams and spaced-out keyboards. Turn Blue also features more of Auerbach’s falsetto singing, which is often layered into swelling, anthemic choruses. Despite the presence of a few hook-laden cuts like “Fever,” Turn Blue comes across as more wide-ranging and experimental than the “singles” approach of its predecessor. While some of the instrumental excursions meander, this remains a musical trip worth taking.
Producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton might as well be a full-fledged band member on the record. He utilizes his seemingly encyclopedic collection of quirky sounds and studio tricks to full effect, and his keyboard work shines throughout. Recorded at three different studios, Turn Blue took more time to create than the band’s earlier records. The result feels like a concept album—ranging from its freaky, mind-control-inspired graphics to the mysterious, introspective lyrics.
Wisely, the Black Keys stick with the team of professionals who helped make their previous two records sound outstanding. Tchad Blake mixed, Brian Lucey mastered, and Chris Bellman cut the lacquers. They score again on Turn Blue but Nonesuch’s pressing stumbles. My copy is slightly warped at the edge and suffers from an abundance of surface noise. The high-quality plastic album-sleeve inserts common to other Nonesuch releases are also exchanged for an inferior type.
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