It might seem strange to be discussing where The Black Keys’ album Brothers was recorded now, since the album was released almost a year ago, May 2010. However, it’s been equally strange to note how most media about the album has consistently focused on the album as having been recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. It’s worth noting where and when the album was recorded since its story is so different to all others. Fans will be asking similar questions about the release ofÂ The Black Keys’ new album, the recording of which has reportedly started in March 2011 in Nashville for a release in late 2011.
Brothers is the first album by The Black Keys to have been recorded at multiple studios over such an amount of time with multiple producers. Generally speaking, the mythology that has developed around the band suggests that they record everything in either a) their basement and/or b) really quickly.
The facts are not so simple for Brothers.
It was seemingly easy for interviewers and those reviewing the album to convey a bite-sized “It was recorded at Muscle Shoals” story. The historical currency of the Muscle Shoals studio was a marketing angle the album was sold on, even if Dan and Pat played down its influence. Producer Danger Mouse’s involvement was often noted especially after the success of Tighten Up. Yet it still seems strange that no one seemingly cared to read the liner notes after the album was released in May 2010.
The Black Keys Fan Lounge also noted that Brothers was recorded at Muscle Shoals when the news first broke that that was where the The Black Keys’ were recording in August 2009. This was later updated.
The songs on Brothers were recorded in no less than four studios over six months or so. The bulk of them were recorded at Muscle Shoals, 10 of the 15. Significant contributions though were recorded at Dan Auerbach’s own Easy Eye studios after the Muscle Shoals session. Not insignificantly Tighten Up was recorded last (December 2009) after there was a desire to create a radio single in. Tighten Up was recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn, New York, with producer Danger Mouse. Let’s not forget the track These Days, which closes out the album, was recorded at Mark Neill’s Soil of the South studio in mid-2009. Mark Neill of course has a co-producer credit for Brothers but was only involved in the recording of These Days and the Muscle Shoals session.
It might be interesting therefore to listen to the Brothers album in order of the chronological creation. How much of an influence the different recording sessions in different studios, over time, with different producers made to the resulting success of the album is debatable. Certainly though the recording timeline has an influence on the diversity of the sounds on the album and it makes it even more remarkable that the album hangs together so well as a creative document.
Where The Black Keys’ albums were recorded:
The Big Come Up
Recorded at Synth Etiquette Analog Sound, Akron, Ohio between January and February 2002 aka in Pat’s basement
Mostly recorded in a single 14-hour session Studio 45, Akron, OH (December 2002); Studio 880 (December 2002) aka Pat’s basement
Recorded in a deserted rubber tire factory aka Sentient Sound, Akron, OH (January 2004 – May 2004)
Produced and recorded by The Black Keys at The Audio Eagle Nest, Akron, OH, 2006
Attack & Release
Produced by Danger Mouse. Recorded by Paul Hamann August 9-23, 2007 at Suma Recording Studio, Painesville, OH.
Produced by The Black Keys and Mark Neill (tracks 1, 2, 4, 8-12, 14, 15), Danger Mouse (3), The Black Keys (5-7, 13)
Recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (1, 2, 4, 8-12, 14); The Bunker, Brooklyn, New York (3); Easy Eye Sound System (5-7, 13); Soil of the South Studios, San Diego (15), 2009.