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This week, two supergroups are releasing new albums – one that was expected and the other a bit of a surprise release (at least in terms of its date). We take a look at the Dan Auerbach-fronted outfit The Arcs, which also includes producer and musician extraordinaire Richard Swift; and members of the Daptones family Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss and Nick Movshon; plus contributions from Kenny Vaughan, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, and Tchad Blake.
With the vast array of talent, the album could go in a number of directions, and each artist’s specific talents and interests can be heard. However, the collective amalgamates their various talents on Yours, Dreamily, to create an album that spans from garage-rock to R&B and soul-infused numbers. Does the album meet the great expectations that come when so many gifted musicians get together or is it just a bad dream? We give our First Impressions.
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Our First Impressions on The Arcs’ Yours, Dreamily
Whenever a notable voice from a recognized group launches a side project (solo or otherwise), anticipation runs high. Inevitably the “What will this new group sound like?” questions arise. In this case, Dan Auerbach is the notable voice from The Black Keys, so it’s natural to expect this album to sound like his previous efforts. I was impressed with the riffs on the first single, “Outta My Mind”, and the personal aspect of the lyrics: “…pushing buttons now is all that keeps me sane.” Since the Keys released Turn Blue last year, Auerbach has kept busy producing and performing on other artists’ albums. Perhaps that time spent in collaboration with the likes of Lee Fields, Lana Del Rey, and Ray LaMontagne diffused some of his post-divorce angst. Anyone expecting this side project to have the rock vibe of El Camino may be disappointed. There’s no denying this is a breakup album: the lyrics on “Chains of Love” (“I had a cold companion / I was her net to land in”) throw serious shade on a relationship gone awry. Auerbach seems to be exorcising his personal demons here, somewhat reservedly with equal parts blues and mariachi instead of straightforward bluesy rock ‘n roll. Breakup albums tend to skew heavily toward either blatant animus or self-pitying woe. Tempered by time and the help of talented friends, Auerbach successfully avoids those extremes with The Arcs. Yours, Dreamily is a solid work from a group of top-notch musicians.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this new album that has kept Auerbach busy while Patrick Carney is recovering from a shoulder injury. The album offers up a very personal almost kind of break up record which is probably Auerbach’s most personal to date. “Outta My Mind” is a great track that speaks to him finding relief in recording. “Stay In My Corner” is a great throwback sounding 50s track which also has a boxing reference since Auberbach is a fan of the sport.
“Put a Flower In Your Pocket” and “Rosie Ooh La La” are strong tracks and probably my top favs. The album as a whole spans through a lot of different genres yet keeping his love for the blues at the forefront. This is a solid showing for a new project from a bunch of talented performers.
The Arcs flex their psychedelic muscles on “Velvet Ditch” and honestly for me the best part of the album is the lyrical content. Auerbach has blues rock almost perfected so there was no doubt this would be a pretty good musical showing with the new project. It’s a personal record and one many that have been through heartache can relate to. I give it a definite thumbs up for Yours, Dreamily and would look forward to hearing future albums from the group.
I was a big fan of the Black Keys early work. They were right up there with The White Stripes producing awesome lo-fi raw blues rock. They evolved like bands often do when they get popular and the raw blues transitioned to more produced polished blues tinged arena rock. I still like modern era Black Keys but miss the edge.
I have really enjoyed Dan Auerbach as both a solo artist and a producer. He has done fantastic work with Ray LaMontage, Dr, John, and Hanni El Katib. I was excited to see what Auerbach would do outside of the Black Keys hoping for a return to his grittier side. The Arcs debut Yours, Dreamly is diverse album almost busting at the seams with different sounds and themes. I love the more bluesy lo-fi tracks like “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”. Another highlight is the psychedelic track “Velvet Ditch”. This diverse supergroup also touches on early funk and soul with tracks like “Rosie Ooh La La” and “Pistol Made of Bones”. Even with the diverse sound Auerbach and company managed to keep a consistent feel throughout the album. Thumbs up for me.
I have to admit that when I learned that Dan Auerbach was teaming up with Richard Swift and friends to form The Arcs, I was excited by the news. My hope was that this “supergroup” would strip things down and allow Auerbach to channel his earlier The Black Keys’ albums and his own solo work. In addition, with such a diverse set of musicians, hopefully there would be something new to be heard. For the most part, the album sees Auerbach and friends go in many directions. The band achieves its greatest success musically when they channel the ’50s and ’60s. The psychedelic-blues of “Velvet Ditch” and the soulful funk of “Rosie Ooh La La” are understated gems. “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” might be the album’s highlight. Every band member shines, and the lo-fi production gives the song a raw, grittiness to match Auerbach’s grizzly vocals.
For fans of The Black Keys, there are tracks on the album that have the duo’s garage-rock-pop sound, namely “The Arc” and “Outta My Mind”. But lost beneath the musical talents heard on Yours, Dreamily, is the songwriting. The album contains arguably Auerbach’s most personal and sincere songwriting. It’s almost as if Yours, Dreamily is a therapeutic record, as Auerbach overcomes the personal and professional challenges he has encountered the past two years. The fantastic, ’50s soul-infused “Pistol Made of Bones” is a terrific, groovy track yet it is heartbreaking at its core. “Outta My Mind” is Auerbach sharing his angst and his feelings of loss and confusion, where he can only find escape in the studio.
Maybe Yours, Dreamily doesn’t push the music boundaries, but it’s a really solid – if not even great – album. It’s not as catchy or hook-laden as El Camino or True Blue, but it has a whole lot of soul. Thumbs up from me on Yours, Dreamily.
Photo obtained from The Arcs’ website.
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