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16 Bands like The Black Keys: Effortlessly Aloof

Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorIf you find the über-cool charisma of The Black Keys almost as irresistible as the rhythmic anthems they produce, you’ll love The Diamond Light, Alaskan Poetry and Radio Moscow. ~ Jonny Sweet


Leather jackets, jeans, boots, lank hair, glasses, nonchalant facial expressions, excessive facial hair… and, oh right, some pretty good music too. What’s not to like about cool bands like The Black Keys?

Joking aside, this duo from Ohio in the States have serious stage presence, a fact I can vouch for having been lucky enough to catch them live last year at Lollapalooza festival in Santiago, Chile. Indeed, perhaps their nearest contemporary rival for cool-oozing that I can think of is Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas… who by chance was performing at the same festival. Overload of cool!

Aside from that, they also happen to have a very distinct, very catchy and very popular sound, revolving heavily around thumping drum beats, iconic bass lines and the distinctive vocals of Dan Auerbach. If you’re as big a fan of all of their music as me, you’re probably asking yourself the question…

What Bands Are like The Black Keys?

Fear not! Luckily, the raw and ready, guitar-heavy, bluesy, garage-sounding, grunge-fuelled, hard-to-pin-down quote unquote “genre” to which the band belong is enjoying something of a boom right now.

If you’re looking for other bands that sound like The Black Keys, here are a smattering of ten of my favourites which you may want to check out.

The Raconteurs

Essential albums: ‘Broken Boy Soldiers’, ‘Consolers of the Lonely’, ‘Live at Third Man Records’

Essential tracks: ‘Steady, as She Goes’, ‘Salute your Solution’, ‘Consoler of the Lonely’

American rock super-group The Raconteurs (known as The Saboteurs in Australia) are right on target when it comes to bands like The Black Keys.

The band’s talent for catchy guitar rock/blues tracks comes from four members known for other musical projects: Jack White (formerly of The White Stripes, currently The Dead Weather, as well as solo), Brendan Benson (solo), Jack Lawrence (of The Greenhornes, Blanche and The Dead Weather), and Patrick Keeler (also of The Greenhornes).

The Raconteurs have a louder rock edge, but share a contemporary indie flavour which makes them a close match to The Black Keys.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Essential albums: ‘Howl’, ‘B.R.M.C’, ‘Beat the Devil’s Tatoo’

Essential tracks: ‘Beat the Devil’s Tatoo’, ‘Spread Your Love’, ‘Whatever Happened to my Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song)’

Since 1998 American rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (also known as BRMC) have been creating psychedelic garage-rock. Like The Black Keys, they draw influence from Americana and rhythm and blues, and formed their own distinct style.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were also inspired by early nineties UK indie bands like The Stone Roses and The Verve. Over the years the solid band have released seven albums, with 2010’s ‘Beat the Devil’s Tatoo’ said to be their ‘second wind’ by NME.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are more eclectic with various influences, but they laid the foundations for the indie-blues crossover of bands to follow, making them a must-listen for The Black Keys fans.

Kings of Leon

Essential albums: ‘Youth and Young Manhood’, ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’, ‘Because of the Times’

Essential tracks: ‘The Bucket’, ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Use Somebody’

American rockers Kings of Leon rose to popularity largely due to their success in the UK where they built up a massive fan base. Their Southern rock-meets-noughties indie music has a similar traditional rhythm and blues influence to The Black Keys.

Kings of Leon began in 1999 with Southern rock and blues influences, then evolved over the years to a more alternative-rock, arena sound. Their chart success includes 4 top ten albums, many top ten singles, and the popular number one single ‘Sex on Fire’ (2008).

Both bands have rock and blues influences and then added their own alternative flavour, with Kings of Leon being well known for arena rock style anthems.

If You Like The Black Keys, You Will Like…


Want to hear more bands like The Black Keys? Now you’ve heard about some of their peers, why not step back in time with some of the musical veterans of this rock-blues genre?

The Rolling Stones

Essential albums: ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Exile on Main St.’, ‘Let It Bleed’

Essential tracks: ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’

The Stones were one of the first bands to take traditional rhythm and blues and give it a rock and pop edge, a skill The Black Keys have gotten down to a fine art. With such a big back catalogue you could start with the Rolling Stone’s top ten albums according to NME.

While the Grandads of Rock initiated the blues-rock cross-over, The Black Keys have introduced a modern edge to the genre.


Essential albums: ‘Psycho Blues: The Best Collection of the Yardbirds 1963-1966’, ‘For Your Love’, ‘Birdland’

Essential tracks: ‘For Your Love’, ‘I’m A Man’, ‘Heart Full Of Soul’

60’s British rock band, The Yardbirds, spawned many imitators and inspired many artists, who found common ground and resonance in their modern, edgy take on the classic rhythm and blues style.

With The Yardbirds you’re guaranteed to hear more of the old fashioned blues compared to contemporary a band like The Black Keys who have been inspired by it and added their own touch of indie.

The White Stripes

Essential albums: ‘The White Stripes’, ‘Elephant’, ‘Get Behind Me Satan’

Essential tracks: ‘Seven Nation Army’, ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’, ‘Icky Thump’

The White Stripes and The Black Keys are similar on many levels: colours in their names; rocky double-act combining drums and guitar; genre-straddling tunes which rely on epic bass-lines, intricate guitar fiddling and a weird-sounding lead vocalist. Okay, so three levels.

But seriously, pretty much anything Jack White touches sounds like The Black Keys – and is excellent. This applies to his solo work, the two outstanding albums from The Raconteurs and his collaboration with The Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart in The Dead Weather.

Jack White is such a giant of the alternative rock scene that there probably isn’t too much new music today that doesn’t owe something to his body of work – and ‘The Black Keys’ definitely share a lot in common with ‘The White Stripes’.

The Kills

Essential albums: ‘Keep On Your Mean Side’, ‘No Wow’, and ‘Midnight Boom’

Essential tracks: ‘Future Starts Slow’, ‘Cheap and Cheerful’, ‘Tape Song’

Did someone mention The Kills?

Perhaps a little rawer and a little less rhythmic than The Black Keys, The Kills are nonetheless an exciting and energetic duo who claim direct influence from a variety of eclectic sources, including The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith and LCD Soundsystem.

The pair originally performed in very differing bands, but then got together at the beginning of the millennium and began recording under the names VV and Hotel, before switching to their current moniker.

‘The Kills’ are a less polished and more fiery duo than ‘The Black Keys’ – with a female vocalist in their midst as well, of course.

Them Crooked Vultures

We’ve covered Jack White; now for three more legends of rock music.

Back in 2009, Josh Holme from Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, Nirvana and, well, Dave Grohl fame decided it would be a good idea to make some music together. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Unfortunately the trio only stuck together for one album as a super band… but it is a super album (groan… sorry).

The two bandmates of ‘The Black Keys’ are already well on their way to achieving the same immortal rock status of the three members of ‘Them Crooked Vultures’.

Band of Skulls

I had the good fortune to see these fellows in 2010 in Australia when they barely had enough songs to fill an entire set. The first album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey had just been released the previous year and hearing it with no previous knowledge of their work simply blew my mind (well, it was either that, or the copious amounts of alcohol I’d imbibed at Splendour in the Grass festival).

They keep it simple with larger-than-life bass lines, steady background drumming and a great male/female vocal harmony going on.

Just like ‘The Black Keys’, ‘Band of Skulls’ place a heavy emphasis on pounding basslines, heavy drum beats and irresistible vocals.

The Diamond Light

A definitive “garage band” from the States, The Diamond Light began making music in their parent’s garage in New Hampshire before regrouping years later in southern California.

They released their debut album in September 2012 and despite having a very distinctive sound and a rapidly-expanding fan base, the band are difficult to find anywhere except on iTunes and YouTube.

Although I can’t vouch for them personally, I’ve heard tell their live performances are electrifying, as well.

‘The Diamond Light’ are one of the most exciting proponents of the form of grungey garage rock made popular by ‘The Black Keys’.

Alaskan Poetry

Aussie indie-rockers Alaskan Poetry are still taking their baby steps in the music industry, having formed in 2011 and only just recently released their first EP, Wise Men in their Bad Hours.

As a result, it’s tricky to get hold of any of their work except via a direct download on their website or via viewing videos on YouTube.

Mixing Black Keys-style rock with Arctic Monkeys-type energy and The Shins-esque lyrics, Alaskan Poetry are certainly one to watch for the future.

Though nowhere near as developed or as assured in their own sound as ‘The Black Keys’, ‘Alaskan Poetry’ display all the hallmarks of an equally exciting band in their infancy.

The Black Lips

According to their colourful Wikipedia page, The Black Lips had an equally colourful gestation period, during which they were expelled from school for being a “subculture danger” and swapped in and out several members of their line-up.

They also purportedly put on lively shows, which contain all manner of shenanigans from rubber chickens to on-stage vomiting.

Despite all of this immature posturing, the band actually have a very mature sound which is reminiscent of The Black Keys, and not just because of the word “black” in the name of their band.

‘The Black Lips’ are like a wilder, sillier but equally as catchy sibling to ‘The Black Keys’.

The Black Angels

Continuing the theme of darkly-named bands, The Black Angels actually derive their moniker from a Velvet Underground song (and their logo is an imprint of VU vocalist Nico) and are noticeably influenced by many of the same bands who shaped The Black Keys.

To date, they have amassed almost a decade’s worth of music spread across four studio albums and one compilation, although I will confess that they only came to my attention with their third effort (and still my favourite) Phosphene Dream.

Another interesting titbit – in 2011, the band released a special edition EP, 100 of which were randomly adorned with signatures from the five members at the time. Isn’t that nice?

Not only does their band name sound like ‘The Black Keys’, but ‘The Black Angels’ music will also ring similar bells and win over the hearts of like-minded fans, as well.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow aren’t from Moscow… and it’s very unlikely you’ll hear them on the radio.

Their particular brand of bluesy (slightly psychedelic) rock n’ roll is a little reminiscent of early Kings of Leon (before they sold out), a little reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and a lot reminiscent of The Black Keys.

Indeed, it was The Black Keys – and in particular lead singer Dan Auerbach – who stumbled across the band in 2007, and Auerbach who produced their self-titled debut album.

When one half of ‘The Black Keys’ produces an album, you know the sound will be instantly recognisable – the result is ‘Radio Moscow’.

Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant bagged the Rolling Stone magazine’s Best New Artist of 2011 gong according to a reader’s poll, with their second album in particular receiving many plaudits from critics and the general public alike.

They have also toured with The Black Keys in the past year, as well as supporting British band Foals and appearing at Lollapalooza on more than occasion.

Each album has been a significant departure from the previous, with the band achieving the admirable and all too rare feat of consolidating their sound whilst expanding and improving upon it.

‘Cage the Elephant’ are rapidly gaining a devoted fanbase as the British answer to ‘The Black Keys’ – but just don’t tell them that, the bashful bunch.

Dan Auerbach

So… the sharper eyes out there will have noticed this is the eleventh entry on a purported list of ten… and the extra-special pedants will also be clamouring to point out that this is an artist, not a band.

Seeing as how Dan Auerbach is actually one half of The Black Keys, you can think of this entry as a freebie on the list, just in case you weren’t aware he was making his own sweet, sweet music.

If you didn’t know, he is; and it is glorious.

‘Dan Auerbach’s music is, predictably, incredibly akin to that produced with his partner in crime with ‘The Black Keys’, if only a little more poignant and pensive.


Any Other Bands that Sound like The Black Keys?

As I said, this particular genre of hard-to-pin-down music is incredibly popular right now… have you heard any other bands who fit the bill?

Let the rest of us enjoy them as well by bringing them into the limelight below in the comments section.

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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