Without question, the release that most ‘indie’ and alternative rock fans are talking about this week is the new album from The Black Keys. The duo is on quite a ride right now which always makes us worry a little bit. There is something about when a band gets too popular that really does detract from their attractiveness. And of course there is the inevitable question whether the three-time Grammy Award winners still qualify for indie/alternative rock status. We say the answer is yes and no. Yes because, so far, it has not seemed to have gone to their heads, as they explained Tuesday night on The Colbert Report (watch exclusive web-only performance of “Gold On The Ceiling”). But at the same time, it’s all very new as well.
Alas, the answer is also no. Despite the band’s proclamations of modesty, their seemingly down-to-earth persona, and their authenticity, there’s just no way to avoid the perception, or reality, that the fame changes, somewhat, the relationship with long-time fans, many of who tend to despise, for all the right reasons, overly-commercialized music. Once a band goes big, the relationship is no longer as special because now too many people – including many who never heard of them until the Grammy nominees were announced – have a hand in the Black Keys’ cookie jar.
The now well-known band seem to not be letting their new found, higher tier success get to their heads. Their new album is proof that millions of people around the world are yearning for a rock band as skilled and engaging as The Black Keys. Too often bands that start from DIY roots and find themselves in the spotlight, are a target for people who are trying to dictate and influence how they write, produce, mix and distribute their music. If they can retain their genuine musical signature, the brilliant, raw talent they are admired for, and the modesty they appear to exalt, then we suspect they’ll be a popular band for years to come.
However, one indication that The Black Keys are already breaking from their DIY roots, is an announcement in November that they would not allow El Camino to be streamed on services like Spotify and Rhapsody. Something just tells us this was not the band’s decision. It’s a minor detail in the end analysis – the album is fantastic, so it’s money well spent. On Black Friday, Nov. 25th, the band released the first advanced single, “Lonely Boy,” with the B-side, “Run Right Back.” The track was first premiered on Zane Lowe‘s BBC Radio 1 show earlier in the month. The first track is made available via the blog, Austin Town Hall, and the second track, from The Muse in Music.
“Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys from El Camino
– The Black Keys from El Camino
So, the singles from other new albums below include a range of styles. The first track from the new release, I Was the East, by Lovers, is one of the highlights of the week. “How Beautiful You Are” is a sweet, melodic dream-pop track that relies mostly on acoustic guitar, a ukulele and the soft and charming voice of the Lovers’
Also, the respected Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer, Olafur Arnalds, 25, released his new album, Living Room Songs, on the Erased Tapes this week. Arnalds, a former drummer in hardcore/metal bands like Fighting Sh*t and Celestine, is better-known for his mixing of strings, piano, loops, and electronica-style beats that range the spectrum from pop music to classical.
“How Beautiful You Are” – Lovers from I Was the East
“Fyrsta” – Olafur Arnalds from Living Room Songs
A recent transplant to Toronto from Vancouver, the singer/songwriter, aka, Great Aunt Ida, released her third album, Nuclearize Me, this week. The new album comes a full five years since her 2006 sophomore release, How They Fly. The LP’s first single, “Romance,” is a wonderful piece of 1950’s influenced pop, straddling on the edge of doo-wop. While we have yet to hear the entire album, we definitely plan to over the holidays.
For this record, Nilsen brought aboard other professional Canadian musicians, including Juno Award winning artist Jesse Zubot (Zubot & Dawson, Fond of Tigers), who arranged the strings, plus, bass and backing vocals provided by the Rhoestatics’ Tim Vesely and Barry Mirochnick (Neko Case, Veda Hille). The album was recorded at Ottawa‘s Bullhorn Productions by Dave Draves (Kathryn Calder; Gentlemen Rag).
– Great Aunt Ida from Nuclearize Me
Other singles from new releases dropped this week include the latest from Bitch Magnet, Mwahaha, Inspired and the Sleep, Rocket from The Tombs, and The American Revolution. Enjoy.
“Mesentery” – Bitch Magnet from Bitch Magnet (reissue)
“Love (featuring Merrill Garbus)” – Mwahaha from Mwahaha
– Inspired and the Sleep from Kaliedoscope Years (self-released)
– Rocket From The Tombs from The Day the Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs (reissue)
– Thee American Revolution from Buddha Electrostorm