Straight off his work on Broken Bells’ latest record, prolific producer Danger Mouse returns to man the boards on Turn Blue, his signature technique (gospel-style vocals layered over big choruses, crisp and grooving production qualities) meshing well with Auerbach’s velvety smooth yet sullen vocals.
The 11-track set kicks off with “Weight of Love,” a rather moody, trippy, down-tempo number that sets the tone of the album. Auerbach’s futile pleas for his partner to persevere through the pain sail over sci-fi humming that rises between distorted bass and soft tinkling bellchimes bookended by extended ‘60s-vintage guitar solos. “Year in Review” alludes to Auerbach’s divorce with ex-wife Stephanie Gonis, the song’s theme of self-destructive and decaying relationships reinforced with lyrics like “Why you always want to love the ones who hurt you? / Then break down when they go and desert you, no, oh no, it’s so hard to let them go,” and set against ‘70s-vibing cowbell-accompanied instrumentals. There are even a few trademark Black Keys head-boppers, including lead single “Fever,” its unexpected dose of indie-pop synths driving the track as much as the song’s thundering rhythms and Auerbach’s ghostly reverb-effected vocals.
Granted, Turn Blue has its share of filler and lagging moments. But Danger Mouse’s attention to detail and risk-taking paired with strong songwriting overall elevate it from potential disaster to welcome departure.
Critics' Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
The Black Keys stop at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tues., Dec. 16; St. Vincent opens. Tickets are $48-$91 and can be purchased here.