Dan Auerbach is quite an interesting guy. When he is not fronting one of the biggest bands on the planet the Black Keys, he is producing for other artists, recording with hip hop artists, and now he is releasing the first album under his new side project the Arcs, “Yours, Dreamily”.
Music fans have had a taste of the likely sound of this album for a while, with pre-released tracks “Stay in My Corner”, “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”, and “Outta My Mind”. And, right from the get go these tracks hinted at a swirling blusey/soulful record to come. But, has the actual album delivered on the early promise of those tracks?
Well, overall, I would say yes. In terms of the “new’ tracks which were not put out into the music sphere pre-release, most of them do stack up and see Auerbach and his band, a band that includes the very talented Lee Michels from El Michel’s Affair and Truth & Soul Records on drums exploring different blusey, psychedelic and soulful sounds. Although similar in nature to recent Black Key’s records such as “Brothers” and “Turn Blue”, there is still a lot going on in these new bunch of tracks that shows Auerbach is willing to experiment with what is quickly becoming his stock-standard mix of soul, blues and psychedelia.
“Pistol Made of Bones” is a southern stomper complete with horns, a barking dog and plenty of swagger, while on “Cold Companion”, Auerbach heads into what I would describe as progressive blues territory, with the backing vocals sounding very 70’s progressive rock-like. I say that in a good way of course. “The Arc” is a grungy blues rocker, not to dissimilar to the material seen on Auerbach’s debut solo album. And, although not as good as some of the more psychedelic moments on “Yours, Dreamily”, it does its job as the sort of token stadium rocker track on the album nicely. On “Nature’s Child”, Auerbach and the band have a John Lennon moment circa early-70’s, which is pleasant enough without being amazing, while “Velvet Ditch” has a smooth, contemporary R&B feel to it, as well as featuring two funky sax and guitar solos. The album then moves to its finale with one of the standout tracks “Chains of Love”, which has some stellar female backing vocals and an infectious rhythmic groove to boot. A great track, and very different to Auerbach’s more traditional material. The album then winds down with tracks such as the simplistically sweet R&B of “Rosie (Ooh la la)”, and album closer “Searching the Blue” which is a very nice Stax-sounding soul ballad.
On the whole, this is not unusual territory for Auerbach, but at the same time this is definitely not a Black Keys replica album by any stretch. The added presence of other musicians I would say gave the tracks more groove, and allowed Auerbach to play around more with different textures and rhythms. Something he might be more limited to with the Black Keys. On listening to this album you can certainly hear Auerbach playing with new sounds and musical ideas, and “Yours, Dreamily”, all in all really is a very solid contemporary, but at the same time authentic soul record. Well worth a listen I would say.