Founded by Jack White, Third Man Records has, since its inception, focused on a high-class brand of the unusual. Whether this means releasing a strange, single record from enigmatic Mildred and the Mice or very special vinyl editions of past work from The White Stripes, Third Man has created its own unique place in the world of record labels and stores.
Now, on April 20 (Record Store Day), Third Man is going to prove that everything old is new again.
Maybe it was the joy of catching At the Drive-In, where we saw actual people in band T-shirts at a music festival, but of this year’s action in Grant Park, Sunday most felt like the festival’s original incarnation (still spliced with a raging dance party, of course).
For the past decade, Jack White always has felt like some sort of enigmatic miracle worker. Or perhaps “warlock” or “witch doctor” are more appropriate terms. But any way you slice it, the result has been the same: White has been able to (A) build something large out of very little and (B) bring focus and resolve to a kaleidoscope of different influences and styles when collaborating with peers.
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Earlier this year, when The Black Keys announced a new album via a used-car commercial spoof starring Bob Odenkirk, it was obvious that the band had something fun up its sleeve. The gimmick didn’t come out of nowhere, given the band’s knack for humor (see last year’s “Tighten Up” video). If anything, it felt right — with The Black Keys’ rising popularity in the last few years, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney seem to be enjoying themselves. And that’s never been more apparent than on their latest release, El Camino.
With the last decade spent tearing apart genres and sewing them back together, the blues-indie-rock outfit (which recently relocated to Nashville from Akron, Ohio) has become one of the most consistent acts around. And though many bands might crumble under the weight of mounting exposure — in the last week alone, the band has appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report, and The Late Show with David Letterman, in addition to jump-starting a North American tour packed with numerous arena stops — the band has simply gotten more carefree. Auerbach and Carney look and sound like they’re having the times of their lives, and they probably are, even if that means adapting to their now-more-expansive surroundings. And El Camino, the band’s seventh effort in just nine years, showcases the end product of that transformation, as the duo has cultivated a bigger, more varied sound — without losing its edge.