The Arcs fail to live up to lofty expectations on first album

Chris Duncan

At 36, Dan Auerbach seems too old to be an up-and-coming rock star. Thanks to an explosion in popularity in 2011 with the platinum release of his album with The Black Keys, El Camino, Auerbach has been lauded for his blend of rock and the blues. Auerbach’s previous success warrants new opportunities, resulting in The Arcs’ first LP Yours, Dreamily.

The Arcs quickly evolved from Auerbach’s solo effort into a quintet, advertised as a new and creative artistic project. The singles leading up to the album’s release featured a sonic variety that fans wanted, but the singles lacked substance. Their first album, released Friday, follows a similar pattern, flourishing in moments, but failing to become anything more than a reinterpretation of the blues Auerbach has been playing for over a decade.

Initially, The Arcs’ colorful sound is almost indistinguishable from Patrick Carney, drummer for The Black Keys, and Auerbach’s recent releases. In a blind test, most Keys fans would probably guess the first half of Yours, Dreamily is the duo’s unreleased LP. Later in the record, though, the album finds its niche with a haunting spaghetti western style of rock, resembling the soundtrack to an upcoming Quentin Tarantino release.

This sound is the result of each group member’s diverse musical backgrounds. Multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels played horns with The Black Keys since 2010 and reinterpreted several Wu-Tang Clan hits. Nick Movshon, notable for his collaboration with Mark Ronson, is featured as the bassist on this album alongside the Shins’ Richard Swift. The recording might sound rough at points, but this album is a calculated effort to surround Auerbach with a quality supporting cast, giving him the chance to expand his expected sound.

The muffled and eerie melodic drumming by Homer Steinweiss sets the stage perfectly for the hypnotic reverb of Auberbach’s guitar, bringing forth the album’s brooding personality. The guitar riffs are plentiful and performed with charisma, but Auerbach’s slippery and often throaty blues sound is still present. Auerbach could have taken advantage of a fresh start with a more poetic sound to match his enticing riffs.

Experimentation is expected with any new band. However, many of the songs on Yours, Dreamily sound as if they could have been rough demo tapes rather than a valiant first effort. “Nature’s Child” and “Rosie (Ooh La La)” stand out, especially, by providing a reverberant sound to almost every instrument played, creating a cluttered mash of ideas that didn’t seem to play out properly.

Auerbach takes the micro-examination style from the most recent Keys release, Turn Blue, and turns his ideas into large-scale lessons on Yours, Dreamily. The aforementioned “Stay in My Corner” attempts to become a worldly statement, but often dodges direct confrontation, especially during the chorus, when Auerbach mindlessly sings “Stay in my corner babe, I will fight for you if you fight for me,” leaving the listener lost.

At its best, the album is thoughtful and entrancing. But at its worst, it's a tedious and slightly dull endeavor. The Arcs provide a creative outlet for Auerbach that could progress his writing style, allowing him to stretch his music prowess and expertise to their limit. Yours, Dreamily has the potential to become a defining moment for Auerbach’s career but lacks a distinct new style, quickly becoming a faint memory.

Yours, Dreamily

Genre: Soul/Blues Rock

Tracks: 14

Rating: 2.5/5