Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys has teamed up with American rock band Cage the Elephant to produce their fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty. The band’s musical style has varied greatly since their first album in 2008, and the latest addition to their discography is no exception. Tell Me I’m Pretty is a departure from the aggressively energetic beats, bold bass lines, and heavy percussion that has characterized their sound in the past, without losing the energy that makes them unique.
This isn’t the first time Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys have worked together; they toured together in 2014, for the Black Keys’ Turn Blue album tour. The band chose Auerbach as a producer in an effort to make this album more organic and transparent, and more true to who they are as musicians. Every song has a different emotional tone, which creates a diversity within the album. The result is a stripped down, honest, and emotional album that focuses more on vocals and sentiment than their previous work, while remaining true to their classic rock roots.
The first track, “Cry Baby”, starts off the album with an intro very similar to their last album, Melophobia, but a little easier on the ears than the raw and assertive sound of the 2013 album. It’s followed by the first single of the album, “Mess Around”, in which you can clearly hear the Black Keys influence on an otherwise classically Cage the Elephant song.
Next, “Sweetie Little Jean” introduces a slowed down, more folk-rock element that can be heard again a few tracks later in the acoustic guitar harmonies on “How Are You True”.
“Too Late to Say Goodbye” is a raw emotional vignette with simple percussion that allows the vocals to speak for themselves. Then the tone turns “Cold Cold Cold” like the title of the next song, returning to the detached vocal tone of Cage the Elephant’s earlier music.
The standout track and second single of the album is “Trouble”, which is catchy despite the slower tempo. With a classic lyrical theme of struggle and love that references one of Cage the Elephant’s first hits (“Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”), this song manages to be both playful and intense.
The last three songs of the album are more true to the original sound of their first two albums, with persistent bass lines and a lyrical motif of violence in “Punchin’ Bag” and “Portuguese Knife Fight”, but with less aggressive melodies.
Tell Me I’m Pretty on the whole shows a more honest and emotionally transparent side of Cage the Elephant. They were able to accent different musical strengths than their previous albums allowed for because of the variety between songs and the more organic nature of the album, and the results speak for themselves.