The Black Keys

Attack & Release (Nonesuch)

The biggest knock on the Keys' 2006 major-label debut, Magic Potion, was its lack of innovation. That can't be said about the band's new disc, Attack & Release, which remains steadfast in its blues allegiance while expanding the Akron, Ohio, duo's territorial reach. Tastefully done, it's undoubtedly a Black Keys album, with a musky grime exposing their dark, dirty roots.

But there's more, plenty more, courtesy of producer Danger Mouse, who adds organs, synths and a variety of sounds that contribute to the record's muscularity and atmosphere. It's a subtle but omnipresent influence best seen in the xylophone tinkles of "So He Won't Break" and the dusky contrabass clarinet in "Lies."

Like much of Magic Potion, there's a distinct move from blues to blues-based in many of Attack & Release's songs: "I Got Mine" approaches Led Zeppelin's proto-boogie, while "Strange Times" busts loose with a psych-hued, organ-heavy chorus. It's not all steroid stomp, though. "Psychotic Girl" ambles over a bluegrass acoustic shuffle backed by eerie vocals and a screeching synth, and "Remember When (Side A)" drifts dreamily across a parched, twangy soundscape. The mix of Danger Mouse's electronic effects and the Keys' bluesy ethos achieves a wonderful synthesis here.

 
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