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Grit and Guitars

September 5, 2011

“Alternative refers to the under-the-radar, independent music that edgy, anti-establishment types can buy at Starbucks.” Steven Colbert

Ever since their songs were featured in commercials for Zales and Victoria’s Secret, the Black Keys can not be considered “under-the-radar.” And thanks to their appearance on the Colbert Report during Grammy fever 2010, they have completely surfaced to the mainstream world but unashamed and unscathed. During the show, Colbert explained his predicament in whom to give his “Best Alternative Artist” vote.  Deciding his own way to narrow down the ballot, Colbert pinned Vampire Weekend against The Black Keys in an ironic competition of the band that “whored themselves out” the most over the year. He satirically explains,

“The only way to determine which alternative band has the most edgy, noncommercial appeal is to se who got their songs in more commercials.”  

Though many pretentious music buffs stick their noses up at a mainstream route bands take, there is no denying that credit is due where credit is due.

Blues-rock duo The Black Keys transport their listener back in time, to nostalgic sounds of 70’s alt-rock with guitar styling resembling The Jimi Hendrix Experience. With a unique, antique and rough vocal the guys conjur the pulsating feeling that is old school blues while incorporating modern rock rythms. The Black Keys stand apart from so many new wave progressive artists (Rilo Kiley and Mercury Rev, just a few of Urban Outiftters’ favs) with this “dirty” sound. The guys’ newest album, Brothers, is also their sixth. But like most bands, The Black Keys really shine on their earlier albums, especially Attack and Release. Tunes to check out: “Set You Free,” “I Got Mine,” “Your Touch” and “Tighten Up.”

If you really want to experience the raw grit and fervor of the Keys, find a turntable/record player and the Keys’ The Big Come Up on vinyl. The best explanation for who the band is and what they hope to accomplish is stated right on the back of the album.

“For the past twenty years we’ve been living in a world of irony that has made it hard to access the true soul and grit of trembling guitar lines, aching voices, and heart pounding beats…one of America’s richest musical genre has been sucked dry of its vibrancy… However, when you place this record on your turntable you’ll suddenly realize – somewhere, somehow – there are people who are rekindling the life of truly soulful music.”

Check out “Yearnin,” “Heavy Soul” and “Them Eyes.”

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