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The 11 best songs by The Black Keys

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are the 11 best Black Keys songs ahead of their Irish date

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These days, The Black Keys are a global colossus; a duo who fill arenas and top festival bills everywhere from Arizona to Auckland. But it took them a long time to get there.

Childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were quite a niche outfit for the first decade of their career. In fact, it took until the pair’s sixth album, 2010’s Brothers, before real success started to come. And, while that album did well – selling over 2 million in the US alone – it was 2011’s El Camino, powered by breakout single ‘Lonely Boy’, that blasted them into the stratosphere.

Now, more than 13 years on, they’re out and about once more with another new LP. Ohio Players pays homage to their homestate, with Noel Gallagher, Beck, Juicy J, super producer Greg Kurstin and electro wizard Dan The Automator all contributing. 

With the album on shelves and a tour starting soon, it’s time to look back at Auerbach and Carney’s career thus far and celebrate with their 11 best songs.

11. ‘Set You Free’

The lead-off single from the band’s 2002 sophomore effort Thickfreakness, ‘Set You Free’ is a rough and raw piece of garage rock, but ever so groovy.

The Black Keys "Set You Free"

10. ‘I Got Mine’

The highlight from 2008’s Attack And Release, ‘I Got Mine’ is a big-hearted, bluesy, Zeppelin-esque rocker. It remains a brilliant live track for the pair. 

9. ‘Little Black Submarines’

The first entry from 2011’s defining El Camino, ‘Little Black Submarines’ is a delicate, soulful ballad, another string to the band’s huge bow.

The Black Keys – Little Black Submarines [Official Music Video]

8. ‘Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)’

On first look, and possibly on first listen, Auerbach and Carey might seem like rock tradionalists – men still in love with the blues and the sonics of yesteryear – but that’s far from the case. In 2009, the pair teamed up with Roc-a-Fella records co-founder Damon Dash to created BlakRoc; Dash enlisting many of his finest acts to work with the pair. The list of guests was impressive, including Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch and Ludacris, and the album itself was even better. Languid rocker ‘Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)’ is the best of them. 

BlakRoc: Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) Ft. Mos Def and Jim Jones

7. ‘Gotta Get Away’

2014’s Turn Blue, the long-awaited follow-up to El Camino, didn’t move the needle for the band in the same way its predecessor did. It’s a more stripped back, 1960s surf rock-style record, with the joyful ‘Gotta Get Away’ as best thing on it. 

6. ‘The Only One’

The Black Keys are probably best known for their short, punchy powerhouse pieces of rock and roll, but, when they’re minded to, the pair can meander with the best of them. ‘The Only One’ is when the two things come together perfectly.

The Black Keys – Tighten Up [Official Music Video]

5. ‘Tighten Up’

2010’s Brothers was the album that saw The Black Keys really come into their own, and ‘Tighten Up’ was the perfect encapsulation of that. Built around a swaggering groove, the track still feels rough around the edges, but it’s driven by a soulful energy and ends in a glorious wig out.

4. ‘Gold On The Ceiling’

The second single from El Camino, ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ is still an indie-club call-to-arms from that opening scale drop. A storming freewheeling jam with a gigantic chorus that felt like a classic before it first finished. 

The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling [Official Music Video]

3. ‘Wild Child’

After a couple of slightly underperforming LPs, 2022’s Dropout Boogie was a real return to form for the band. In particular, ‘Wild Child’, its lead-off single, managed to set pulses racing. It’s everything the pair do well: an irresistible groove-laden riff, a huge chorus, and fat-free production. 

2. ‘Howlin’ For You’

A punch-the-arm anthem, ‘Howlin’ For You’ was the band’s second breakthrough single from Brothers – and the one that got them the most airtime on adverts, movies and games (not to mention the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix). Fusing funk, garage rock and surf pop to deliver something brilliant, it’s been reverberating through stadiums, clubs, bedrooms and backseats ever since.

1. Lonely Boy

As if it could be anything else? From the moment its squalling guitar fuzz gives way to that insanely catchy riff, you’re hooked for life. Packing machine-gun drums and a dive-bomb guitar line like Auerbach and Carney are waging war on modern rock, this is The Black Keys at their slickest and stickiest. An all-time great. 

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy [Official Music Video]

The Black Keys perform live at 3Arena, Dublin on 3 May 2024.