Black Keys - Let's Rock
And just like that, The Black Keys have rocked and rolled their way back into our lives like a breath of fresh air music fans across the world were longing for.
After a five year hiatus, the blues-rocking duo from Akron, Ohio have released their whopping ninth studio album. The album, Let’s Rock, sees the Keys bringing the best of both of their worlds into one album.
With Turn Blue, the band’s eighth studio album, audiences saw a different, more complex side of their music making process, as the duo teamed up with acclaimed record producer, Danger Mouse. The album was met with mixed reviews, as many fans and critics found themselves still craving the hard rocking sounds found on the Key’s mainstream breakthrough album, El Camino.
Let’s Rock brings about a sound that seemingly combines the high energy pace of El Camino while leaving room for the seductive storytelling and backroom blues infused sounds Dan Auerbach has been bringing to audiences over the last half decade through his side projects.
No song better demonstrates this than the opening track, “Shine A Little Light”. The song starts in classic Black Keys fashion, with a guitar lead intro that lets you know things are about to kick off.
Almost instantly, audiences are reintroduced to everything they fell in love with over the last 10+ years, as Dan’s guitar hits and thumps with a thickness that arguably has not been heard from him before. The sound he got out of his guitar on this one is thick, it’s rich, it’s grimy, and it’s undoubtedly awesome.
What’s different about this song than similar ones in years past is that (while it certainly features a heavy guitar riff), the verses are filled with that mellow, bluesy type of storytelling that fans of Auerbach have been hearing since Turn Blue.
“Eagle Birds” is one of those songs that really lets you see why they made the title of the album what it is. It seems like the Keys wanted to get back to doing what they do best, which is playing good ‘ol fashioned rock n’ roll. This track definitely does not shy away from showing off all the elements people associated blues-rock with. “Eagles Birds” fits right in there with some of the most fun songs the band has ever produced.
“Lo/Hi” was the first single released from the album and was a fantastic way to get fans stoked on the new record. This song punches listeners in the face with its grimy, distorted guitar rhythm, screaming strings, and gut-wrenching amplifier feedback.
What’s great about this particular track is the energy it maintains throughout. There’s hardly a moment where the euphoria of the blistering guitar sounds, the thumping drum line, and the support from the background vocals dies down, allowing listeners a brief moment to breathe.
“Walk Across the Water” serves as the album’s rock ballad. It’s quite unlike most tracks we’ve heard from The Black Keys. While a little more on the softer side, the track still sounds like it was written while Dan was literally sitting in a swamp in the deep backwoods of Tennessee. That’s the beautiful thing about this song - it showcases more than one side of the band. There’s so much YES about this song, whether it be the dark funeral organ sounds, the twangy blues-riddled guitar riffs, or the oohs and ahs in the background of the bridge that reminds listeners of the Brothers album, this track is one that’ll be listened to for years to come. Not to mention, the lyrics are simply beautiful.
Up next is the masterpiece of the album. “Tell Me Lies” is one of the best songs The Black Keys have ever produced. This track sounds like it should be playing as you and your partner in crime drive off into the desert sunset after robbing a casino. In all fairness, “Tell Me Lies” is a lot more Turn Blue than El Camino. That being said, the song still rocks harder than most other music put out over the last several years. The track does a great job of bouncing between hazy rhythmic and soulful sections that go perfectly with the intricate and guitar-driven chorus. “Tell Me Lies” oozes of the cool factor fans of The Black Keys first fell in love with.
Similar to “Lo/Hi”, they bring the energy back with “Get Yourself Together”. It’s another track that seemingly doesn’t seem to slow down throughout its entirety. When the band named the album Let’s Rock, they really meant it. “Get Yourself Together” also has one of the most epic outro guitar solos to come along in quite some time - 10/10 recommend.
With “Sit Around and Miss You”, they really summoned their inner-1960’s vibe with this bright and casual summer jam. The song definitely shows the lighter side of the band while maintaining their typical catchy sing-along chorus’. This should have people dancing and swaying across grass fields at this summer’s biggest festivals.
Two months before the album dropped, the band released “Go.” The record’s third single, this song will definitely rock and roll its way to your favorite playlist over this summer. Luckily for fans it’s also accompanied with a pretty epic music video that pokes fun at some of the things fans and critics have said over the last five years, in regards to the band's hiatus and idle status.
“Breaking Down” is another sure-fire banger. Noticing a trend yet? This track is another dark and sexy track that has new age Dan Auerbach written all over it.
It’s a bit grimier than the other tracks, but it is another one of those songs that combines El Camino with Turn Blue. That beautiful mix of seductive sophistication with hard rocking power chords and distorted guitar leads. Not to mention, yet again, the support from the background singers help make the bridge a masterful one. It’s obvious that at some point, they discovered how amazing their work can turn out with the help from a supporting cast on vocals, and they are not wrong. It’s always beautiful when they bring in an eclectic compilation of sounds.
It’s crazy how when you get to the last two songs of the album, “Under the Gun” and “Fire Walk With Me”, the rocking simply just doesn’t stop. What a fitting name Let’s Rock is when every song goes as hard as anything the band has ever put out.
Many will say that The Black Keys are at their best when they are playing straight-up blues-rock, with loud, crunching power chords and muddy feedback coming from Dan’s amp. They are not wrong.
But after this album, there is certainly an argument that they’re actually at their best when they find new ways to keep things interesting while also delivering those juicy power-chords fans sell out arenas to hear. Some of their best work comes when they experiment with different sounds and styles.
It’s safe to say that The Keys are a band who looks in the mirror and recognizes exactly who’s staring back at them. While always evolving, The Black Keys have found a formula for success that allows them to innovate while continuously staying true to themselves and their fan base.