Foreword / The Arcs at Terminal 5
by David Burke, Contributing Writer, Foreword /Afterword, December 9, 2015
Dan Auerbach will probably prove to be the greatest pop musician of my lifetime. And most likely yours, my friend. And tonight, The Arcs, Auerbach’s latest undertaking, play Terminal 5 in support of their first record, Yours, Dreamily,. This is the one. Find tickets. (Find me outside the venue, I have an extra.) This is, for me at least, that one show that stands out for the year. That one show that you keep in the back of your mind as the days tick by. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tonight.
The Arcs? A side project you say? But, does a Dan Auerbach side project sound just like more Black Keys stuff? Absolutely not. While Auerbach’s guitar work is so indelibly his, and so damn near impossible to mistake as anything other than his, Your, Dreamily, is a, dreamy (surprise!) funky musical odyssey that flirts more with the New Orleans jazz sound a la Dr. John (for whom Auerbach produced the 2012 record, Locked Down) than the dirty blues-rock we’ve come to love via The Black Keys.
Yours, Dreamily, is a massive triumph for Auerbach as a musician, who’s prolific output seems to spread out in all directions, and absorb and reinvigorate the lost and lonely fringes of American lay-music. It is, too, a massive triumph for the band’s four other members, Leon Michels, Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss, and Nick Movshon, all of whom have writing credits on the record, which is a true sonic tonic – a record that effortlessly balances on the verge of such tremendous depths. Listening to Yours, Dreamily, is like taking a truly righteous trip. A dance down the rabbit hole, if you will. A reverb washed, percussion driven, horn borne psychedelic memory, culled from disparate and beautiful nooks – masterfully curated from musical dreams and succulent sample scrapings. An American musical masterpiece.
Without a single weak track, it’s difficult to identify favorites. The interplay between the horns and keys and Auerbach’s yearning vocals on Nature’s Child is pure auditory gold. The percussion that dances around Auerbach’s top-end croon on Velvet Ditch is masterful. The cowboy landscape of Pistol Made of Bones pans out before mariachi-styled guitar licks and timely grunts. Ironically, the most Black Keys sounding track here is The Arc, which conjures Lonely Boy, from the 2011 LP El Camino.
But for a long-time Dan Auerbach fan like me, the most exciting element of this fantastic record is its lyrical and vocal interplay. While I’ve long seen Auerbach as one of the best voices in rock and roll, and one of the most enlightened songwriters of his time, often lyrics and vocals take a back seat on Black Keys tracks thanks to the sheer power of the band and the virtuosity of Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s musical communication. Not so here, and not for lack of fine musicianship. Yours, Dreamily, is a contemplative and mostly jaded line of thought (give Put a Flower in Your Pocket a good listen. Oh my.) that centers squarely on the harsh reality of failed relationships and impostorism, delivered as a tightly played, deftly arraigned auditory treat. The band is so damn good I just can’t quite express it, and while the songs may speak forlorn and disillusioned, a single glimmer of light, Stay in My Corner, the pleading and promissory ode to the righteous lovers’ struggle with its simple, anthemic chorus stands as the counterpoint to most of the rest of the record, and creates a beautiful balance in its assessment of the romantic landscape. “Stay in my corner, babe,” Auerbach pleads, “stay in my corner, please. Stay in my corner, babe. I will fight for you, if you fight for me, too.” So good. So, so good.
As for the show, expect a hell of a good one. Two drummers, horns and strings, backing vocalists, non-record tracks (of which the band has a few) and a healthy dose of Dan Auerbach plus guitar. For homework, take a look at The Arcs first show at Housing Works on YouTube.
That the word, boys and girls! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Foreword / Afterword
December 9, 2015