Seldom do I feel justified in making a comparison to The Beatles and their amazing musical legacy, but in this case, it’s well deserved. Much like The Beatles, the Black Keys started small, and I’m not referring to their gigs, rather the complexity and depth of their music. The early Beatles albums, though classics and known by almost everyone in the world, were simple albums. Sure, they caused a hysteria, but that didn’t stop the Beatles from changing and growing musically over their career, going from simple American rock songs and essentially covers to full-blown works of intrinsic art.

The Black Keys - Brothers

The Black Keys appear to be following this growth trend. Starting small as a simple two-piece in Akron, Ohio, they put out several albums before Attack and Release thrust them into the semi-mainstream limelight. Their early albums were simple but driving, able to pull you in, rock you, then send you on to the next song. Their previous albums have been littered with sonic gold, from Hendrix-inspired 70’s rock (“Set You Free”) to beading, droning delta blues. They’ve even devoted an entire (fantastic) album, Chulahoma, to Junior Kimbrough covers. With Brothers, The Black Keys again show their ability to change and grow with themselves, shaping their sound and emotion with each track to attain a broader yet more refined experience in every respect.

I dare say there are points in this album that shine through with a real emotion that is lacking from their previous works, a soul, so to say. “Unknown Brother” comes immediately to mind, a brilliant song that brings an obvious deep emotional tie clearly to the forefront. This is the first Black Keys album were I feel like Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are addressing personal issues, ones that provide a prominent emotional weight when listening.

The Black Keys

Stylistically the album covers a broad range of sounds but never feels like experimentation. Though different tonally from previous albums, nothing feels incomplete or tried. Opening the album with “Everlasting Light,” they jump right out and grab you with an amazing backbeat that makes you want to move. Other notables are “Black Mud,” an awesome soul rock instrumental, and “Sinister Kid,” a funk rhythm body mover that I can’t seem to escape. Also, I may be the only one, but I swear I can hear the influence of Ethiopian Jazz legend Mulatu Astatke on the song “Ten Cent Pistol,” and I love it! This album walks all over the musical map but never seems lost and meandering, an honest rarity.

Maybe I’m going out on a limb (I don’t think I am), but I’m calling it right here, right now: this album deserves to at the very least be nominated for Album of the Year. The sheer shift in emotion and depth this album presents is well worth the coveted award.

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