Album Review: El Camino by The Black Keys

The Black Keys' new album, El Camino. Released December 6, 2011

By Sarah Jorgensen

El Camino
The Black Keys
Nonesuch Records
Released December 6, 2011


In recent years, The Black Keys have soared to near-mainstream popularity after their last album Brothers – they even played the main stage at Coachella this past April and at Outside Lands in August. Now, the Akron, OH band has returned with their seventh album, El Camino, an album more resonant of their earlier work than of the album that put them on the mainstream success map.

Though the album does maintain some of the synth-driven goodness that made Brothers appealing to so many people, the album also brings back the heavy guitars that were used so well in Magic Potion and Attack and Release. This will be a welcome change for longtime fans of the band, including those who were dissuaded by the altered tone on Brothers. Songs like “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Run Right Back” sound like they are straight off of Magic Potion with their strong drums (courtesy of Patrick Carney) and low-fi guitars combined with Dan Auerbach’s fantastic vocals, which, overall, sound more grungy than angelic on this album. “Hell of a Season” sounds exactly like the title –harsh guitars, energetic drums.

The album definitely does have influence from Brothers. For instance, “Nova Baby” keeps the cleaner melodies and guitars characteristic of the previous album, with a little synth thrown in during the chorus. “Mind Eraser” is reminiscent of “Just a Little Heat” off Magic Potion, though more up-tempo and with a lighter hand on the drums and guitars in the mixing process.

El Camino is just fantastic on the whole. Perhaps I’m a biased listener because of how much I loved Attack and Release and Magic Potion, but I’m glad to see the return of heavier rocking from The Black Keys. Though Brothers made them a household name, it’s great to see the band returning to their earlier style while still keeping elements of their more recent work.  El Camino will quickly become a favorite album among longtime fans of The Black Keys, but I have a feeling it will keep the more recent fans hooked as well.

Favorite Tracks:

“Gold on the Ceiling”
“Hell of a Season”
“Run Right Back”