A week before its release, the Black Keys‘ eighth album, Turn Blue, is streaming in full on iTunes Radio. The record, co-produced by Danger Mouse, contains 11 tracks ranging from bluesy, big-beat pop-rock tracks (“In Time”) to shimmery, soulful earworms (“Year in Review”). The album is their first full-length since 2011’s El Camino.
Frontman Dan Auerbach told Rolling Stone that the reason the group took so long between albums – after releasing one every two years or so for the past decade – was because the group was “this-is-your-brain-on-drugs fried.” They then settled into the album’s seven-minute, organ-tinged, quasi-psychedelic opener “Weight of Love” and with that written, the band decided not to try to write singles. “After that, it was like, ‘We can do whatever we want – it’ll be all right,'” Auerbach said. From there, the duo began working on what Auerbach called a “headphone record.” “It pays off to listen more than once,” drummer Patrick Carney said.
As they’ve prepped the release of Turn Blue, the Black Keys have been introducing its songs to the world. In April, they released the album’s hypnotic title track. In early May, they played a searing and thoughtful rendition of “Bullet in the Brain” on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show. They also released a preacher-themed video for the Farfisa-assisted straight-ahead rocker “Fever,” which featured Auerbach as a proselytizing zealot and Carney as his alcohol-chugging, gospel-reading sidekick; it also lists Rolling Stone’s David Fricke as a $300 donor to their cause.
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But the group didn’t spend the time between records only writing songs. Auerbach has been producing music for Dr. John and Lana Del Rey, while Carney founded and has been producing a SiriusXM show. The duo also used its downtime to prank call the A&R department of its record label, Nonesuch, to try to get a deal for their “new age” band, Quartzazium. “It’ll be our last gig until the spring solstice,” one of them says, trying to convince the record exec to check Quartzazium out.
“Turn Blue is a genuine turning point – into a decisively original rock, with a deeper shade of blues,” writes Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke. “You still get the minimalist vigor of the Keys’ first records a decade ago. But this is more brazen severity, richer and forward in its hip-hop allusions, super-size-rock dynamics, pictorial studio flourishes and offbeat commercial savvy.”
The group is set to perform at Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama on Friday, May 16th before appearing at numerous European festivals this summer.