In 2011, The Black Keys released their seventh album. Called "El Camino," the album had an unenviable task: It had to follow its very popular predecessor "Brothers."
"Brothers" is how I got into The Black Keys. A very good friend of mine (the same friend who got me into The White Stripes) bought a copy of the album for me. Knowing my tastes in music as he did, and knowing how I appreciated good sounds and was wanting to expand my knowledge of modern bands, my friend figured "Brothers" was a good place to start. He was right.
I love "Brothers." From the first track ("Everlasting Light") to its big single ("Tighten Up"), the music engaged me. It had a groove to it, an energy ... almost amused and angry at the same time, and the beat got the feet tapping and the head nodding. Heck, I even love the font choice for the album's cover (Cooper Black ... it was the type used for The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," among others).
All right, so my interest in The Black Keys was piqued. Admittedly, I haven't picked up their earlier albums yet. Part of it was a fear that I wouldn't like their earlier stuff as much, which was fed by so many critics and reviews calling "Brothers" their breakthrough album. Another reason was, well, I was curious to see where the band would go next ... I wasn't so concerned with where they'd come from. (That time will come, have no fear. I tend to fill in the the blanks on all the groups that grab my interest.)
In mid November, my wife said that The Black Keys were due to release a new album in early December. Well, I was definitely curious about how it would sound. Would the guys "clone" the material of "Brothers," to safely enjoy the critical and commercial blessings they'd received with the previous album? Would The Keys go "hipper than thou" and dismiss "Brothers" as middle-of-the-road fluff and experiment with their sound/style? Or would they just set out to create a good record and let the sounds develop themselves?
Well, reviews have been positive for the most part, and the album is doing well on the charts. The first single, "Lonely Boy," climbed to No. 2 on the US Billboard Top 200. That's not the No. 1 that "Tighten Up" hit, but no one can complain with such a high showing.
I've heard a couple of the songs and have really enjoyed them (my first exposure to "Lonely Boy" came with the video for it). But I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the album properly, giving it my full attention. The Beach Boys' "The SMiLE Sessions" came out in early November and I haven't been able to stop listening to that (just ask my poor wife).
When I'd announced my intentions to live blog an album, I wanted to do something I hadn't really heard yet. Or I wanted to do something I hadn't heard in a while. I didn't want a fully developed love, hate or apathy to mar the live blogging experience. I wanted something fresh, to reflect my initial reactions to the material.
To that end, I actually had a couple albums that I considered. One was Hugh Laurie's "Let Them Talk." Laurie, best known in the United States for his role as Dr. Gregory House on the TV show "House" (or "House, M.D."), put out a pretty cool blues album that had my interest. I also considered Al Jardine's "A Postcard from California," as I'd only listened to that once or twice in 2010 after it came out. I decided against both of these, however, because I still hadn't unwrapped my copy of "El Camino," and I didn't want to neglect it further.
I bought the album the day it came out. I ended up giving that copy to another good friend of mine who hadn't really heard their stuff before. Thus, in a way, I returned the favor to the friend who had introduced the group to me. I bought a second copy and it's been sitting in a pile of music, waiting for its chance to shine.
Well, tonight is the night.
In order to give this the live blog experience, I'm going to use comments to give my thoughts as I listen. The main post that I've written to this point won't change after I've started. So to get my reviews of the tracks/album, please read the comments. Barring any interruptions (phone calls, etc.), I'm going to go straight through. It's all about immediacy. Time and further listening will refine my opinions and perhaps my outlook will change. But tonight, first impressions are gonna count.
Ready to go? Let's do it.