The Key to Rock and Roll: Black Keys’ Best Album

The first four Black Keys albums were recorded in the basement of drummer Patrick Carney using cheap gear that cost roughly $3500.

Even if the environment may not have been optimal, some of the most intensely visceral blues-rock has been produced outside of the twenty-first century there. The band has improved their equipment, relocated into a real studio, and sought the aid of outside producers ten albums into their career.

Despite the changes, their music still delivers the same magnificent gut punch it always has. Here, we rank all ten of the Black Keys albums from worst to greatest, looking back at their achievements and failures.

1. Thickfreakness

Although sophomore albums are often difficult, the Black Keys’ triumphal Thickfreakness shows no signs of having experienced the “Difficult Second Album” syndrome. It emphasizes gritty garage music with blues influences, similar to their debut, but everything is larger and better.

The Black Keys are a pure blues band at their core, and they could have just as well released a record in the 1950s as they could now.

The muscular guitar and stirring vocals of Dan Auerbach keep things on the right side of the millennium, but ultimately, it’s their timeless quality that makes them so appealing, and they embrace it fully here. It’s a rare delight, soulful, muscular, and almost primal in its fury.

2. Rubber Factory

The Black Keys came back with their third studio album, titled Rubber Factory, exactly one year after the release of their second studio album, which was also very good.

The high-impact, sincere blend of blues and rock was a critical success, garnering praise from publications such as Entertainment Weekly, which called it a “lo-fi version of classic-rock boogie—done by utterly earnest indie-rock nerds, and done the right way.”

Equally successful on the commercial front, it was the first of the band’s albums to make it onto the Billboard 200 chart, where it debuted in the fall of 2004 at position number 143.

3. Brothers

The Black Keys’ sixth studio album, Brothers, marked their first major commercial breakthrough after five highly praised albums. When it was released in May 2010, it quickly sold a remarkable 73,000 copies in the US and peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200, which was its highest position up to that date.

Its lead song, Tighten Up, which was produced by Danger Mouse, was equally successful, spending ten weeks at the top of the Alternative Songs Chart and being their first entry on the Hot 100. Within two years after its release, it received three Grammy nominations and platinum certifications in the US and Canada.

4. Turn Blue

For their eighth studio album, Turn Blue, the Black Keys once again enlisted Danger Mouse as both a producer and an equal songwriting collaborator in order to capitalize on the commercial success of El Camino. It turned out to be a wise choice.

The more sophisticated, nuanced quality of the band’s sound didn’t escape attention, nor did its commendable ability to draw on a variety of musical influences without losing themselves in the process.

Uncut called it their “sneakiest, subtlest, and most seductive” album yet. It was a huge success commercially, becoming their first album to concurrently top the charts in the US, Canada, and Australia. The fiery garage rocker Gotta Get Away, the thumping Fever and the svelte title tune are among the standout songs on the album.

5. The Big Come Up

You might want to give The Big Come Up a try if you’ve got a hankering for some visceral, high-impact scuzz blues that come on like a wrecking ball. If so, you’re in luck. The Black Keys made their debut in May 2002 with an album that is loaded with hefty guitar lines, voices that fill the space, and aggressive riffs.

According to All Music, the main issue with the majority of minimal two-man blues-rock ensembles is that they are typically too minimal, producing a thin garage sound and a lack of variety in their music.

To say that the Black Keys do not face this challenge would be an understatement. It was a breath of fresh air in 2002 and it is still a breath of fresh air today because it is loud, raw, and just a little bit filthy.

6. Magic Potion

The Black Keys, an American rock group, published their album with the same name in 2006. One of the songs on it is “Magic Potion.” The song’s distorted guitar chords and appealing vocals give it a bluesy, vintage rock vibe.

With lines like “I want a potion that will make her stay / Cook it up for me and I’ll pay,” the song’s lyrics express the singer’s yearning for a miracle remedy that will enable him to win back his sweetheart.

Magic Potion” by The Black Keys is a superb example of their distinctive sound, which combines elements of blues, rock, and garage rock. I really urge you to give it a listen if you enjoy bluesy rock music!

7. Delta Kream

The Black Keys also have a song called “Delta Kream” on their same-titled 2021 album. “Delta Kream,” a bluesy, gritty track that honors the origins of American blues music, is part of the album’s dedication to Mississippi Hill Country blues musicians.

With lyrics like “I’m going down to Rosedale / Take my rider by my side,” the song’s gruff vocals and slide guitar conjure the atmosphere of the Mississippi Delta.

Both listeners and critics have praised the album, with many applauding The Black Keys for their commitment to respecting the long tradition of blues music. I really suggest checking out “Delta Kream” and the rest of the CD if you enjoy blues or rock music!

8. Let’s Rock

After a hiatus of five years between records, the band finally returned with their ninth studio album, titled Let’s Rock, which was released in June 2019. It was a commercial success, charting at number 4 on the Billboard 200, number 3 in the UK, and in the top 20 across numerous other countries.

Its commercial success was helped along by the success of the preceding singles Eagle Birds, Go, and Li/ Hi (the latter of which became the first song to ever top Billboard’s Mainstream Rock, Adult Alternative Songs, Rock Airplay, and Alternative Songs charts simultaneously).

Nevertheless, despite the fact that it is a very polished piece, it is not quite in the same league as the band’s early albums, which may disappoint some listeners who were looking for a return to the gritty blues-rock sound of Thickfreakness.

9. Attack and Release

The fifth studio album by the Black Keys, Attack and Release, had a number of firsts. It was their first album to be recorded in a professional studio as opposed to Patrick Carney’s basement, their first album to work with a professional producer, and coincidentally or not, it was also their first album to achieve gold status in the US.

It’s not their best performance, despite everything. The songs lack the immediacy of their early work, but they are nevertheless accomplished and an excellent example of the band’s increasing maturity.

Even though they are excellent, they don’t captivate the listener as much. Undoubtedly a very well-composed record, yet the least engrossing of their attempts.

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