Right off the bat, the Black Keys calm any fears about the mainstream success of 2011's Grammy-winning "El Camino" album and breakthrough hit "Lonely Boy" going to their heads.
Their eighth album, "Turn Blue" (Nonesuch) opens with the seven-minute, guitar-solo-heavy epic "Weight of Love" that shows how far singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have come since their days as a duo that made all their blues-rock sounds themselves. The impressive "Weight of Love," along with the grand, Eric Clapton-esque solos of "In Our Prime," also show, however, that the Black Keys will never really stray far from their Akron, Ohio, indie-rock-and-blues roots.
The inclusion of Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) into the band's inner triangle, as "Turn Blue" producer and co-writer, doesn't change its mission, only enhances it. While "Turn Blue" spans a variety of styles -- from the loping, '60s soul groove of "In Time" to the frantic, organ-driven dance party of lead single "Fever" to the power-pop closer "Gonna Get Away" -- they grow more from Auerbach and Carney than Burton and his numerous projects like Broken Bells and Gnarls Barkley.
The most impressive part of "Turn Blue" is how the Black Keys have managed to expand their palette and artistic vision without losing their focus. Everything here is tight and hard-hitting, still built on the solid bond between Auerbach's distinctive bluesy vocals and rock guitar and Carney's inventive, dynamic drumming. Once again, "Turn Blue" finds the Black Keys at the top of their game -- a game that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE Building the best Black Keys album yet.