New Album Releases Worth Talking About: The Black Keys and the Roots

By Elliot Sharp
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 6, 2011

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The Black Keys
El Camino

Akron, Ohio’s the Black Keys are on record: They don’t give a fuck about being called sell-outs. So, fuck you! The Grammy-toting blues-rock duo’s seventh album sports a picture of their shitty old tour van on the cover. They didn’t just get in the van, they lived in the van, baby. (Figuratiely speaking.) Hardcore.

Anyway, here’s 11 new tracks from these guys. Well-produced blues-rock. That’s what they do. Twangy licks with high school gymnasium pep-rally choruses on “The Lonely Boy.” Too bad Friday Night Lights is dead, because it would be perfect for it. “Dead And Gone” is a spunky little number, perfect for New Girl—easy to imagine Zooey Deschanel doing some annoying shit to that one. “Gold on the Ceiling” is a a bit dirty and gnarly, ideal for a PBR ad. The soft acoustic intro for “Little Black Submarines” would go great with an ad for a White Stripes boxset.

“Money Maker,” which is the Black Keys' theme song, sounds like the Super Bowl to me, or maybe a Black Crowes reunion campaign. “Run Right Back” is Budweiser. “Sister” has the sorta hard edge ideal for an iPod commercial. “Hell Of A Season” = Nike. “Stop Stop” = Budweiser, too. “Nova Baby” is very meaningful. “Mind Eraser” is disco all the way. Does your product exemplify the spirit of disco? If so, holler at these guys. Mark your calendars because the Black Keys play the Wells Fargo Center in March.


The Roots
[Def Jam]

The Philly/Jimmy Fallon boys drop their 13th studio album this week. It’s a concept album.

I hate to be a jerk here (actually, no, I don’t), but does it really mean anything to call Undun a concept album? Aren’t all Roots records about how tough it is to grow up on the streets of Philadelphia, and all the pains, hopes, tragedies and joys that come along with that? In fact, aren’t most hip-hop records about this? I mean, I get it, this book of tunes is about one particular character, but ... Do you understand what I’m saying? Like, can you imagine a concept album by a country artist about a boy who grew up in Alabama, worked on his family farm, and then settled down with a wife and kids in his hometown and spent his time either sitting on the front porch reminiscing about “better times” or chilling at rodeos? Would that really be a concept album, or would that just be a country album? I’m probably alone with this critique, so ...

Undun! It’s short, under 40-minutes-long. ?uestlove’s production is spectacular. It sounds nothing like any other hip-hop record you’ll hear this year. While it sounds nothing like Shabazz Palace’s Black Up, it belongs in a category with that wonderful record for throwing a bit of curveball when audiences are expecting the straight-head fastball most rappers are throwing.

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