To celebrate the release of Dan Auerbach‘s second solo record, The New Pollution takes a look at the man at his finest in all aspects of his career from collaborations and side projects to producing and The Black Keys
Dan Auerbach has been in the service of music for 15 years now since the release of The Black Keys’ The Big Come Up, in 2002, but in that time he has patented a distinctive sonic stamp to call his own. Spanning multiple genres like Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Psychedelia, Electronica Soul, Bluegrass and more, his DIY approach and grit have helped him to rise through the ranks of the music world to work such people as Mos Def, Lana Del Rey, The Pretenders, St. Vincent among a few.
So to mark today’s occasion, I’ve earmarked some of my personal favourites from the last 15 years;
10. Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coochie) Ft. Mos Def And Jim Jones.
In 2009, The Black Keys recorded their first collaborative piece, BlakRoc. This side project came about when Damon Dash of Roc-A-Fella Records asked to meet with The Black Keys after becoming a fan. Dash suggested they enter the studio with his friend and associate, New York City-based rapper Jim Jones. The Black Keys and Jones agreed to try out a record and when recording at Studio G, Brooklyn bred rapper, MosDef, interrupted and soon joined the trio. The product of this interruption came in the form of Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coochie). Several other R&B and Hip-Hop artists appeared on the album such as Nicole Wray, RZA, Ludacris, Pharoahe Monch, Q-Tip, NOE, Raekwon and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wu Tang Clan.
*TRIVIA WARNING: Apparently, Damon Dash, co-founder of the project, endorsed the BlakRoc Camaros. This was a limited edition line of Chevrolet Camaros to promote the collaboration.
9. My Last Mistake – Dan Auerbach
2009 was certainly a busy year for Auerbach. Along with recording and releasing BlakRoc, he also released his first solo album, Keep It Hid. The album was recorded in Akron, Ohio (Auerbach’s hometown) with a backing band labeled as The Fast Five. In reality, The Fast Five were group from San Antonio, Texas called Hacienda, whom both Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney had befriended some years before. The Fast Five also featured percussion from My Morning Jacket drummer, Patrick Callahan.
*TRIVIA WARNING: When Auerbach decided to take up a solo venture, he failed to tell other half of The Black Keys, Patrick Carney, about it. This caused a rift between the pair for some time. However, this rift was soon fixed during the recording of The Black Keys 6th studio album, Brothers.
8. Stay In My Corner – The Arcs
In 2015, Dan Auerbach announced The Arcs. This side project was garage Rock band comprising Auerbach (guitar and vocals), Richard Swift (percussion and backing vocals), Leon Michaels (keyboards, synthesizer, drum pads), Nick Movshon (bass guitar), Homer Steinweiss (percussion, bass guitar). The group was also backed up by an all-girl mariachi band called, Flor de Toloache. The group released their debut album, Yours, Dreamily, the same year and toured extensively throughout North America, South America and Europe from 2015 – 2016.
*TRIVIA WARNING: If you ever look at the session musicians that The Black Keys used from the tour of Brothers and Turn Blue, you may recognise Richard Swift(drums in The Arcs,bass in The Black Keys on Turn Blue), Leon Michel (keys in The Arcs, keys in The Black Keys on Brothers) and Nick Movshon (bass in The Arcs, bass in The Black Keys on Brothers).
7. Girl Is On My Mind – The Black Keys
Coming from The Black Keys 2004 record, Rubber Factory, Girl Is On My Mind was released as a double A-side along with Till I Get My Way. The album was recorded in a disused rubber factory in Akron, Ohio and, interestingly, Patrick Carney had the reigns in these days as producer. Rubber Factory was the band’s third album and the first to chart on on the US Billboard 200, charting at 143. It was also the first time The Black Keys recorded a music video for 10 a.m. Automatic.
*TRIVIA WARNING: The artwork on the album is a collage of ‘historic’ local features, mainly from the desolate east side of Akron—abandoned storefronts, tire piles, the Goodyear blimp, and even the Cathedral of Tomorrow’s unfinished tower restaurant depicted as a smoke stack on the front of the album.
6. Wicked Messenger – Bob Dylan/The Black Keys
This song was first recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967 for the John Wesley Harding. The Black Keys decided to cover this track for the film I’m Not There. I’m Not There is a 2007 biographical musical drama film directed by Todd Haynes and co-written with Oren Moverman, inspired by the life and music of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Six actors depict different facets of Dylan’s public personas: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw. Anyone who is familiar with The Black Keys talent for reinventing covers, such as on Chulahoma, will instantly recognise the unique sound produced here.
*TRIVIA WARNING: The Wicked Messenger was recorded in Patrick Carney’s basement along with tracks for the band’s fifth studio album Magic Potion.
5. Savage – Hacienda
In the height of The Black Keys fame and success, Auerbach still managed to find the time to take The Fast Five (now Hacienda) into his brand spanking new Nashville studio, Easy Eye Sound, to produce their third studio LP, Shakedown. From that album emerged the single Savage. Auerbach’s sonic stamp was branded loudly on the single and in some ways it rings a blueprint for many of the tracks from The Black Keys’ 2014 record, Turn Blue.
*TRIVIA WARNING: This was the band’s last album before the four brothers all went their separate ways.
4. Trouble – Cage The Elephant
Moving onto more of Auerbach’s production roles, in 2015 he took on Cage The Elephant to produce their 4th record, Tell Me I’m Pretty. While recording at Easy Eye Sound, the band recorded the lead single, Trouble. The single topped the US Billboard Alternative Songs becoming the band’s 7th chart topper.
*TRIVIA WARNING: The track Trouble was not only produced, but co-written by Auerbach.
3. Your Touch – The Black Keys
Your Touch is a single from The Black Keys fourth album, Magic Potion. The song was featured in the 2009 film ‘Zombieland’, episode 1 of ‘Eastbound and Down’, in a trailer for ‘Battleship’, and runs during the opening scenes of the “Manic Monday” episode of the HBO series ‘Entourage’. It was also used in the 2011 video game Driver: San Francisco, as well as the 2010 video game Major League Baseball 2K10.
*TRIVIA WARNING: Magic Potion marks the first time the pair wrote and composed entirely original material, unlike on previous albums and EPs.
2. Goin’ Home – Dan Auerbach
Another track from Auerbach’s 2009 solo effort, Keep It Hid, is Goin’ Home. Auerbach has said how he wanted to learn to play the guitar, so he could join in when his uncles would play Bluegrass music together. For a time, it seemed as though he had forgotten these early inspirations when you look through The Black Keys catalogue from 2002 – 2009. However, on the final track of Keep It Hid, Auerbach flexes his Bluegrass inspirations with Goin’ Home. This track could well be a sense what we should expect from the new album as Auerbach has noted it to be an album inspired by his roots.
*TRIVIA WARNING: Keep It Hid was the first album to be cut at Auerbach’s original studio in Akron, Akron Analogue.
1. Gold On The Ceiling – The Black Keys
Gold On The Ceiling comes from The Black Keys 7th LP, El Camino. El Camino was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, at Easy Eye Sound Studio, which was opened by Auerbach in mid-2010 after he relocated from the group’s long-time hometown of Akron, Ohio. Carney spoke of how the success of Brothers impacted the follow-up record: “For me, there were physical jitters about everything that was going on. Seeing how big the shows were getting, feeling like people were paying attention, kind of made me anxious, and I think that’s part of the reason [El Camino’s] songs are so fast. I think we wanted to just muscle through it.” Despite the growing expectations of the band, Carney said that the El Camino recording sessions were much more relaxed than those for Brothers, during which he had been dealing with his divorce. Gold On The Ceiling was the third single from El Camino and went platinum in the US and Australia.
*TRIVIAL WARNING: Although it never became a single, Dead And Gone was the first track to be finished from El Camino.