Warning: The Music That Follows May Be Relaxing
Dan Auerbach’s second solo album, Waiting on a Song, embodies a fusion of old-time, surf rock, and singing-‘round-the-campfire sound. This concise, ten-song effort is augmented by the wealth of session musicians the Black Keys singer/guitarist brings in to cover all sorts of other instruments, including parts of a vibraphone and parts of a horn section. A lot of the music from this album would make for great soundtracks in shows like Netflix’s BoJack Horseman (a show whose theme song was written by Patrick Carney, the other half of the Black Keys), despite not exactly bringing to mind many clear cinematic images.
Lyrically, this album’s standout is “King of a One Horse Town,” which shares the thoughts of those filled with regret, those who spend time sulking and imagining what could’ve been — harshly relatable to more people than one might think. Amidst a lyrically powerful song, the strongest pair of lines is, “The beat of my drum is the only sound / I would jump into the ocean but I’m scared I’d drown.” This is such an honest portrayal of what it must be like to be depressed yet cowardly at the same time — hearing nothing but one’s own thoughts, afraid to actually let go of life — that, ideally, it’ll convince listeners to not get consumed by the past. The opening three lyrics are also cutting, “Everyday is just a little white lie / telling myself I’m gettin’ by / I just stay in this room and cry.” Take this as a counterexample, dear readers, not as something to live by. But it’s lyrics like this, the unsettling ones, the deeper ones, that help separate the boys from the men. Plus, before he starts singing, the strings and drums give off a James Bond feel, which is hard not to like — nicely done, Auerbach.
In terms of catchiness and non-lyrical assessment, “Undertow” takes first prize. Right away it stands out as clearly different from the others without being too strange or unfitting. It maintains the beachy, old-timey sound that sums up the album while using strings and glockenspiel to make it its own. Along with a few other songs from this album, “Undertow” would make for a fitting montage scene soundtrack. And, damn, that slide guitar is such a nice cherry atop it all. Certainly the best chorus, followed by that of “Shine on Me” (the latter could very easily get radio play).
Other notable moments include the tasty clapping in the beat of “Livin’ in Sin,” the optimism of “Show Me” (the closing track) and both the subtle trumpet part and the campfire circle sound of “Never in my Wildest Dreams” — Auerbach likely performed this eyes-closed and with a gentle sway back and forth. While this is no extraordinary album, it gets better with successive listens and feels how an indie/blues rock solo album should feel: like a long conversation with the singer himself. Put this one on at the end of a stressful weekend to close your eyes, lay down and relax.