New Music Reviews: The Black Keys, Will Saul, Mastodon, and More

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The Black Keys
Turn Blue
Recorded at Sunset Sound with shared songwriting duties and keyboard by Danger Mouse, The Black Keys’ Turn Blue builds on the mojo of El Camino for their most fulfilling album yet. The soul-sanctified R&B vocals and melodies of El Camino remain, sweetened by bizarre, experimental production. Guitars cry, drums drag, strings swirl like demons, basses go all tumescent; Turn Blue is a darkness-on-the-edge-of-town tale of lust gone wrong (“In Time”), fever-mad dreams (“Bullet in the Brain”), and swamp-rock majesty (“Year in Review”). The Black Keys warp the spirit of Muscle Shoals via a shared beautiful nightmare.

Röyksopp & Robyn
Do It Again
A Scandinavian synthpop power trio, Röyksopp and Robyn explore melancholy and progression on this 36-minute mini-album. “Monument” is a paced entry, melodic ripples leading into “Sayit,” robotic comeons writhing along peristaltic bass. The stroboscopic title track is a bittersweet anthem of stomping hedonism and flickering regrets, while “Every Little Thing” is slow-burning Italo-disco balladry. Following constricted synths, “Inside the Idle Hour Club” is a pensive instrumental that treats melody like wet clay, methodically digging in and swelling out.

Will Saul
DJ Kicks
The latest DJ Kicks installment serves as a guide to Will Saul’s production style and DJ sets, as well as his Simple and Aus labels. Featuring a number of original solo and collaborative compositions, this collection also includes exclusive material from Saul’s stable of artists. Bare-bones techno and house rhythms are spiked by Leon Vynehall’s moody “Time,” Axel Boman’s shuddering “Dubbel,” October’s sinister “KR-100,” and Jabru’s soulful “Church.” Saul’s choices, and his touch, are understated but nonetheless impactful.

Jonah Tolchin
Clover Lane
Singer/songwriter Jonah Tolchin’s debut album has everything going for it: a stellar roots-rock band of multi-instrumentalists, including Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), John McCauley (Deer Tick), and Chris Scruggs; strong writing; delicate yet dynamic arrangements; and the enthusiastic support of a well-matched indie label. Listen to Tolchin and you’ll hear echoes of Beatles and The Band, Dylan, and Delta blues. But mostly you’ll marvel at the depth and talent of this promising artist.

Kasai Allstars
Beware the Fetish
The latest in the acclaimed Congotronics series finds the Kasai Allstars, a collective group of musicians taken from five separate, previously warring Kasai region tribes, playing joyous music on resonant homemade instruments, including slit & buzz drums, xylophones, electric guitars, and distorted thumb pianos with DIY amplification (and vocals). At once simplistic and complex, such tracks as “In Praise of Homeboys” provide a refreshing dance with the African spirits. Utterly timeless and magical.

Once More ’Round the Sun
Mastodon has a catalog piled deep with gnarled thrash, tinnitus-inducing percussive thunder, and grinding catharsis. Having shelved its early-period focus on epically driving concept albums, Mastodon’s newest 11 tracks align the band’s undertones of Thin Lizzy-style harmonized boogie and Melvins-like sludge with its strengths in monolithic, pitch-bent rampage and equal parts scorched, celestial processing. The result is looping, melodic and punchy, a triumphant, atmospheric assault that delivers both density and dexterity.

Nikki Lane
All or Nothin’
Americana artist Nikki Lane opens her latest album with “Right Time,” a bad-girl rockabilly tune with mighty drums, lap steel twang, and extra guitar crunch. It’s just the sort of beginning to help a singer/songwriter type pull away from the outlaw country pack. Lane seriously rocks this twangfest, with the help of a not-so-secret weapon: Her producer was Dan Auerbach, and his vintage-with-an-edge sensibility also raises the bar on songs like the fuzzy and Munsters-spooky “I Don’t Care,” and surf-y “Seein’ Double.”