Best Albums of 2011: The Black Keys' El Camino

Whether or not the Black Keys' seventh studio album is the Akron, Ohio group's finest, El Camino is undeniably one of the better records of 2011.

In a year when folk music seemed to dominate the indie scene, the Black Keys' singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney upped their blues-driven garage fuzz and delivered a bona fide rock 'n' roll full-length in under 40 minutes. Peppered with bits of electric organ, hand-clapping, and '70s-inspired glam rock, El Camino is an aural smorgasbord of music history.

For Auerbach and Carney's follow-up to 2010's Grammy-winning Brothers, the duo enlisted the help of Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, who co-produced and co-wrote each track on El Camino. (Burton also produced the group's 2008 record, Attach and Release and last year's hit "Tighten Up.")

Over the course of 41 days at Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, the group recorded El Camino on a 1969 Quad-8 mixing console which "took longer than any record we've ever done," Auerbach said in an interview with American Songwriter.

In the end, however, the labor-intensive project was well worth it. As soon as it was released, El Camino knocked Michael Buble's Christmas record out of iTunes' top spot. This record is brewing one "Hell of a Season."

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