While The Black Keys have dabbled in extracurricular projects (the 2009 Blacroc rap-rock fusion collaboration with Damon Dash, Dan Auerbach's solo album, Patrick Carney's dalliance with Drummer last year), it hasn't caused the duo's main gig to sound any less focused. The Akron duo reunited with Danger Mouse for Brothers, and while the latter's production style favors the esoteric nuances found on 2008's Attack & Release, the new songs carry a grittier funk.
That might owe to the band's decision to record at iconic Southern soul studio Muscle Shoals. Tchad Blake infuses a skuzzy patina into a mix bubbling over with shambolic fuzz guitar and buzzing organ. It works to perfection, whether Auerbach is testifying about a devil woman (the ominous stomper "Next Girl"), shaking a figurative black cat bone (the hoodoo acid blues of "She's Long Gone"), or laying his heart on the line (the serpentine "The Only One"). Elsewhere, the Keys frontman's greatest stylistic affectation is a convincing falsetto he adds to his usual ragged howl. That's especially effective on the harmony-soaked opener "Everlasting Light" and a sweet reading of Jerry Butler's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Too long by five songs, Brothers still ends up being the end result of the best two-man game in town. (Nonesuch)