Ohio Players

Nonesuch / Warner Records
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. This Is Nowhere
02. Don't Let Me Go
03. Beautiful People (Stay High)
04. On the Game
05. Only Love Matters
06. Candy and Her Friends feat. Lil Noid
07. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
08. Please Me (Till I'm Satisfied)
09. You'll Pay
10. Paper Crown feat. Beck & Juicy J
11. Live Till I Die
12. Read Em and Weep
13. Fever Tree
14. Every Time You Leave

Forming in the unlikely city of Akron, Ohio early in the 2000s, THE BLACK KEYS defied odds and quickly went from playing small clubs to selling out arenas. Bringing together singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, THE BLACK KEYS have consistently released new material since their 2002 debut, "The Big Come Up", and maintained a similar style and sound, even as musical trends have come and gone.

That trademark BLACK KEYS style changes more than ever, though, with the band's new album, "Ohio Players". Opening track, "This Is Nowhere", is starkly different from the THE BLACK KEYS' warm-sounding alternative rock, instead offering a midtempo garage rocker with retro-sounding, trippy vocals and a bright melody. The song's theme surrounds wanting to take a break from the everyday and go "nowhere" for a while. BECK co-wrote the song, and you can hear it in the tune's rich melodies and quirky character. BECK also co-wrote the cut "Beautiful People (Stay High)", a groovy, upbeat alt-rock anthem with funky rhythms and bluesy undertones. With its catchy chorus and "nah nah nahs," it's a fun song and possibly the most commercial off the set.

Beck isn't the only contribution on "Ohio Players", the album also features appearances from a wide range of musicians, including Noel Gallagher, Greg Kurstin, Juicy J and Lil Noid. The latter has an appearance on "Candy and Her Friends". Around two-thirds of the way through the song, the rapper hops in and the tempo and vibe of the song dramatically change, as he lays down some wicked rhythms that sound fantastic, albeit unexpected. "Paper Crown" is a star-studded number featuring both BECK and rapper Juicy J. It starts with turntable noises before launching into a slippery, jammy R&B number. About two minutes in, Juicy J hops on, offering up a wild style of Southern rap that makes the song a rap anthem.

Elsewhere, "On the Game" brings to mind a more guitar-based COLDPLAY, with its emphasis on melody and catchy hooks. "Everytime You Leave" closes out the album with a FOO FIGHTERS-like vibe, offering the most straight-ahead rocker on the set.

THE BLACK KEYS get innovative and creative on "Ohio Players", and it's not hyperbole to say this is possibly their best album yet. Any group that can mix hardcore rap with breezy alternative rock has a special gift. With "Ohio Players", THE BLACK KEYS show they're not getting bored or complacent as their careers move forward. Instead, they're continuing to not only evolve their sound but also their entire musical genre.

Author: Anne Erickson
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