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Popular artists face a tension between their creative ambitions and widespread appeal, but The Black Keys take just the right amount of risks to ensure that they grow and stay relevant on their latest full-length LP.
As the cover art might suggest, Turn Blue sees The Black Keys embracing a slightly more distorted, psychedelic style of music thanks to the influence of producer Danger Mouse. While this isn't terribly surprising given the recent popularity of acts like Tame Impala, the new sounds actually fit in snugly alongside the Black Keys' trademark blues rhythms and vocal harmonies. Given that this is their eighth album, the band ran the risk of either dividing their fanbase by embracing completely new ideas or losing fans' interest by letting their creativity stagnate. Instead, The Black Keys have found a successful compromise between new and familiar that retains what made 2011's El Camino so successful, while also allowing room for creative growth and possibly attracting fans of other music.
The largely instrumental opener "Weight of Love" is a well-paced jam that pays surprising homage to the band's raw, exploratory garage rock origins given the scale of their popularity. The song "10 Lovers" is particularly interesting with its mix of pop ballad jive, blues instrumentation, and psychedelic, ringing keyboards. To be clear, nothing on this album is especially groundbreaking in the grand scheme of music, but The Black Keys' sincere desire to bring more diverse sonic ideas into their finely produced music has the potential to really shake up the mainstream rock scene.
While The Black Keys never venture too far beyond the safety of their well-established pop-blues roots, their very real openness to new ideas proves that fame hasn't reduced them to satisfied complacency.
Favorite tracks: "Weight of Love," "Fever," "Turn Blue"