The Arcs (photo by Alysse Gafkjen, PR)
Dan Auerbach likes to stay busy. While best known as half of the Black Keys, Auerbach went solo in 2009 with Keep It Hid and that same year he, Black Keys partner Patrick Carney and Damon Dash also released an album as Blakroc. Auerbach is in demand as a producer and session player too, collaborating with everyone from Lana Del Rey to Dr. John. Now, Auerbach adds a new band, the Arcs, to his résumé.
The seeds of the Arcs were planted during a recent hiatus from Black Keys. Initially planned as another solo adventure for Auerbach, the Arcs quickly became a collaborative effort with Menahan Street Band’s multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels, the versatile Richard Swift of The Shins and the Black Keys’ touring band, Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss, and bassist Nick Movshon (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson and the Black Keys). Since the paths of these musicians have crossed many times over the years, they have a natural rapport. Auerbach and his friends worked in various configurations over the course of a couple of weeks, recording at four different studios, and cooked up The Arcs’ debut album, Yours, Dreamily.
There’s no denying that Auerbach is at the center of the Arcs: he wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks on Yours, Dreamily and co-produces with Michels. As the band’s frontman too, Auerbach plays the lion’s share of guitar as well as some bass and keyboards. The stomping “Outta My Mind,” which kicks off Yours, Dreamily, doesn’t steer too far adrift from the Black Keys’ most recent album, Turn Blue. But the balance of the album finds Auerbach in a more experimental mood, as if he’s been set loose in a toy store filled with instruments, amps, guitar effects and gadgets.
Synthetic, electronic grooves, augmented by a smattering of loops and samples, weave in and out of the album. Auerbach’s elastic vocals are at the core while his wiry guitar buzzes and twirls around funky retro-‘70s melodies. “Stay In My Corner,” the album’s soulful centerpiece, is inspired by last May’s Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao boxing match: Auerbach is a fan of the sport. “The Arc” is a driving rocker fueled by fuzzed-out guitars and Auerbach’s reverb-swollen vocals while sonic weirdness abounds in “Come & Go.” New York’s all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache appears throughout the album providing backing vocals while soul singer Lee Fields is sampled on the tricked-out “Nature’s Child.”
On Yours, Dreamily, Dan Auerbach steps away from the gritty, bluesy machismo of the Black Keys’ last album to explore more eclectic climes. While it’s unlikely that the Arcs will eclipse the Black Keys for Auerbach, it’s pretty clear that the guitarist, singer and songwriter relishes the chance to show an entirely different side of his rock ‘n’ roll temperament.