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Tuesday July 22nd 2014

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Ears & Fingers—The Hangout Fest Edition

by Jason Leger

The Black Keys
Turn Blue
Somewhere in the middle of the seven minute opening slow burner, ‘Weight of Love,’ you snap to your senses and think, “Wait, I don’t remember putting on Pink Floyd.” You didn’t. Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach, collectively known as The Black Keys, have decided to take some chances on their eighth studio full length, “Turn Blue,” and I honestly think the decision was a necessary one.

While the lead single ‘Fever’ offered a bit of a newer flair on what we have already come to expect from The Black Keys, compared to much of the album, this is the exception rather than the norm. There is much more moodiness, psychedelia and electronics on this record than we have been accustomed to in the past from this duo. The electronic element probably has a lot to do with the man behind the boards this time around—Brian Burton, or as you may know him, Danger Mouse. His influence is spotted all over the album, not the least of which on the aforementioned opener. But Carney and Auerbach take the front and center role they are deserving of, and have made a long player that is consistent, wholly captivating, and may have saved the two from becoming a rock and roll one trick pony. Check out The Black Keys, hopefully performing a good portion of this record when they close out Friday night at Hangout Fest. “Turn Blue” is out now via Nonesuch Records.

Conor Oberst
Upside Down Mountain
It’s been fourteen years since Conor Oberst first caught us with the power of his emotional words on “Fevers & Mirrors.” A lot has changed in that span of time. He has retired the Bright Eyes moniker that helped make him famous. But the most noticeable change has actually been in his approach to songwriting. He has grown up, not necessarily in front of us, but with us. We are all in significantly different circumstances and mindsets than we were in 2000. Thank God.

On “Upside Down Mountain,” his third full length under his own name, and first for Nonesuch Records, Oberst is completely imbued with the 34 years of life he has experienced so far and is introspective on where he sits now. Tracks like ‘Zigzagging toward the Light,’ ‘You are Your Mother’s Child’ and ‘Lonely at the Top’ revel in the wordplay Oberst has always provided for us, as well as a sense of melancholy, which may or may not ever leave him. However there is a newness, an air of rebirth, if you will, that these tracks are permeated with.

Not that we have ever really been able to call Oberst immature, nor would I be guilty of saying that any of his albums have struck me as anything less than very adult, but “Upside Down Mountain” is without a doubt his most grown up work to date. You can catch him playing these songs (and fingers crossed for at least a couple of Bright Eyes songs) at 7:30 p.m. on The Palladia Stage this Friday at Hangout Fest. “Upside Down Mountain” will be out May 20 via Nonesuch Records.