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The Arcs – Yours Dreamily

September 12, 2015


Dan Auerbach is a busy man between his main gig in the Black Keys, producing (Lana Del Ray, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Dr. John, etc.), solo work and collaborations.   If that was not enough, this is his second side band  (2009 Blacroc was the first).

If you are a fan of the Black Keys you will like The Arcs.  The first listen sounds like a Black Keys album, but with each repeated listen some of the songs distances themselves from the Black Keys. It has Auerbach’s distinctive vocals and fuzz guitar, but some of these songs have a different groove. It is both more pop and more experimental than the typical Black Keys album.

I have listened to this album on my iPhone and ear buds and on vinyl through my home stereo.  This is an album that really needs a good stereo to be appreciated.  The big difference between this album and a Black Keys album is that this has much more elaborate arrangements than the garage rock of the Black Keys (although the last Keys album produced by Danger Mouse had a more produced feel).  These arrangements are subtle and are lost on poor equipment. Not that the album can’t be appreciated without a good stereo, but the gimmick here is the sonics and so without a good stereo some of the songs sound pretty standard issue Black Keys (which is not a bad thing).

Side One opens with a sample from self-hypnosis instruction that very appropriately suggest that what will follow will “you may feel a pleasant tingling sensation.”  Indeed.

“Out Of My Mind” kicks off the festivities in familiar fashion. This cut would not sound out-of-place on a Black Keys album.

With “Put A Flower In Your Pocket” the experiment starts.  Auerbach defers the guitar soloing to another (Russ Pahl) and focus on synth and acoustic guitar.  There is an almost Flaming Lips flamboyance to the cut.

“Pistol Made Of Bones” has a spaghetti western feel to the song (Danger Mouse must have worn off on Auerbach with last year’s Mouse produced  Turn Blue). 

“Everything You Do (You Do For You)” has an almost reggae feel (if Tom Waits was leading the band).

“Stay In My Corner” is a gorgeous ballad.  Auerbach has a nice falsetto at points.  He also plays some soulful slide guitar. The song has U2 magnificence.

“Cold Companion” has a grungy narcotic BeeGees feel to it. Imagine John Travolta strutting in slo-mo in a dirty white suit. The album also has cool Eagles harmonies. This is my favorite cut on Side One.

Side Two opens with “The Arc” which is pretty standard issue Keys.

Next up is “Nature’s Child” which has a very different sound mainly because it features Lee Fields (who sounds like a  female vocalist) vs. Auerbach.  This is also a much more atmospheric cut vs. the normal garage boogie of Auerbach and the Keys. The song also has some cool soulful changes in it.

“Velvet Ditch” is a nice piece of 70s pop-soul.  Very cool ending with dissonant horns.

“Chains Of Love” is some more nice 70s pop-soul. Flor de Toloache (the first and only established all female mariachi band) spices up the song with some great vocals.

“Come & Go” sounds rich and thick, but per the credits it is just Auerbach and his production partner Leon Michels.  It has a very cinematic feel.

“Rosie (Ooh La La)” has a great groove and is easy to imagine this as a hip hop sample.

“Searching The Blue” has a great opening with simple piano part. This is a gorgeous ballad that would not sound out-of-place on a Jayhawks album. Almost a John Lennon hymn. Nice rich harmonies.

In summary there is plenty for a Black Keys fan to love. Auerbach’s adventure with Danger Mouse and his production work for others seems to have released him from the garage rock ghetto to make richer music that as I said earlier is both more pop and experimental than the Black Keys.

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