The Black Keys: Ohio Players [Album Review]

| |

The Black Keys
Ohio Players
Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records [2024]

Album Overview: Ohio Players is The Black Keys’ twelfth studio album. It is hard to imagine how far this band has come since their scuffed up blues rock on their debut in 2002 with The Big Come Up. Now in 2024 with Ohio Players, The Black Keys have collaborated with various artists such as Beck, Noel Gallagher, Dan The Automator, Juicy J, and Lil Noid. Along with those bigger names, The Black Keys once again enlists a talented part of their touring band in the Gabbard Brothers, (Zach and Andy) to join the jam along with Aaron Frazer on a track. The album’s creation was influenced by the band’s encounter with Beck at a party after a Sleater-Kinney concert, leading to a tour opportunity and eventually collaborative efforts on Ohio Players.

Musical Style: The album hits a diverse range of musical styles, including blues, soul, funk, hip-hop, and rock. The Black Keys blend their signature blues-rock sound with elements from their collaborators, resulting in a rich and eclectic sonic canvas. I find Ohio Players to be a very different approach for the Black Keys and one that succeeds and sounds better each time I listen.

Evolution of Sound: Ohio Players demonstrates The Black Keys’ evolution as musicians, showcasing their willingness to experiment with new sounds and collaborate with a variety of artists. The album represents a departure from their earlier works while retaining the core elements that define their sound. The most interesting thing about this record is that plays more like a Beck type album for all the obvious reasons but completely works as a fresh new road for The Black Keys. I will always be ready for them to get back to the basics but this album is much more catchy than anything the have released since El Camino (2011). It has a style to it that comes from their veteran status but also love for all types of music. This is evident if you look at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label roster.

Artists with Similar Fire: The album falls into the list for any fans of Beck, Noel Gallagher, and The Black Keys’ previous work. Also The Raconteurs, Gary Clark Jr. and the Foo Fighters come to mind as well.

Pivotal Tracks: “This Is Nowhere” is the album opener that has a thick, funky groove, reflecting the collaborative spirit of the project. The track has real staying power. “Beautiful People (Stay High)” is a densely layered track featuring Dan The Automator’s production, showcasing the band’s versatility. “On the Game” is a Beatlesque stomp featuring Noel Gallagher, blending his songwriting prowess with The Black Keys’ sound. “Everytime You Leave” was co-written with Greg Kurstin and Beck, and closes the record down with its dark-pop territory. “Paper Crown” featuring Beck’s vocals and Juicy J’s rap, this track adds a dynamic element to the album’s sonic landscape.

Lyrical Strength: The lyrics of Ohio Players cover a range of themes, from introspection and self-discovery, the transient nature of happiness to social commentary and just straight up storytelling. The collaborative nature of the album allows for diverse perspectives and narratives to emerge, giving the record more depth and complexity.

Dropout Boogie (2022) / Delta Kream (2021) / Let’s Rock (2019) / Turn Blue (2014)

Dan Auerbach: Waiting On A Song (2017) / The Arcs: Electrophonic Chronic (2023) / The Arcs: Yours, Dreamily, (2015)

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Nonesuch Records

Thomas Wilde

Fire Track: Dehd – “Alien”

The Fire Note Turns 18


Leave a Comment