Boarding House Reach is the third studio album by the American rock musician Jack White, it is his first studio album in almost four years, his last one, Lazaretto, was released in 2014. It was recorded mostly in Jack White’s studio and record company Third Man Records in Nashville. This album is an extreme departure for the former White Stripes musician, originally a garage and blues rock band. Boarding House Reach is full of experimentation and electronic dissonance. Basically, this album is made of a bunch of weird sounds.
That being said, this album is one of my favorite albums from last year. The instrumentation is really unique whether its Jack White going off its blues rock influences or if he’s delving into electronica, it doesn’t sound like it’s a copy of other bands, it sounds completely unique. A great example of this is the first track on the album Connected by Love, which was also the first single, featuring a syncopated drone like introduction that soars over most of the song but especially in the beginning as well as the first two verses. Another great standout on this album is the vocal delivery both by Jack White as well as the background singers he has on most of the album. Again, in the first track on the album, Jack’s delivery of the chorus sounds like he’s not entirely sure with what he is saying, however the background singers really help layer out the message of the song, making it a great start to the album. The next song, Why Walk a Dog?, starts off with a syncopated electronic drum rhythm as well as what sounds like a heavily distorted keyboard chord progression, almost like chimes, very strange for the blues rock musician. Something else strange about this album and this song in particular is the guitar tones, it sounds like Jack White has some distorted electronic sounds on his guitar instead of his traditional harder distortion sounds. Lyrically speaking, this song could probably be an old fashion blues song if you strip away all of the electronics and play it on an acoustic guitar, a thing that Jack White is known for doing. However, this time he chose to take his acoustic guitar and smash into pieces and pick up an electric guitar and synthesizer. The next song, Corporation, is the second single from the album, this song is one of the more “commercial sounding” if you can say that about this album. The whole song is wrapped around one syncopated drum rhythm that plays in the background for the entire song. The rest of the song features repeating melody and screaming female background vocal for the first 3 minutes of the whole album. Jack White’s vocals doesn’t even enter the song until over four minutes into the song, instead the majority of the song just features this amazing array of choral screaming and really weird but interesting fuzzed guitar noises mixed in with congas, really unique and interesting textures. The next song, Abulia and Akraisia, which is this short spoken word part that Jack White delivers with just tons and tons of music going on around it. As far as instrumentation, it’s a break from the electronics of the album and is more of a collage of recorded instruments that Jack had lying around and just threw together in an amazing arrangement. The next song on the album Hypermisophoniac, has this droned noise that plays in the right pan constantly, showing a return to the electronics, this song sounds like a blues song with electronics going on in the background, an odd but interesting track. The next track, Ice Station Zebra, I honestly don’t know how to describe this song, it sounds like they created the song around a keyboard melody but threw congas and tons of heavily filtered vocals. The next track is easily the most commercial track on the album Over and Over and Over, featuring a straight-forward guitar riff at the beginning and no filter on Jack’s voice. Just a great fast paced rock song with elements of blues rock, fuzzed guitars, female backgrounds, and sprinkled electronic. One of the best on the album! The next song, sounds like an advertisement for a dystopian future, Everything You’ve Ever Learned, featuring an announcer with a droned out voice stating Everything You’ve Ever Learned a few times before Jack White comes in sounding like a protester, with the ending of the track going into a large jam session indicating the end of the mockery of false advertisement. The next song, Respect Commander, has a sort of beginning like Over and Over and Over, almost like a tease that Jack was going to do a similar song but then quickly cuts into this weird drone guitar effects and keyboard fuzz. This song features one of the best guitar solos on the album underneath all of the fuzz and before fading out into the introduction again. The next song is more like a spoken word poem featuring an acoustic guitar and background strings Ezmeralda Steals The Show, a common theme I have noticed over the course of this album is all the interlude tracks seem to have some sort of mockery over their real life comparisons, as if almost purposefully. The next song, Get In The Mind Shaft, I am not sure if it features guitar at all, it begins with a spoken word speech and no additional vocals, just a sort of lo-fi sort of vibe for the rest of the song, great “instrumental” if you can call it an instrumental. The second to last song, What’s Done is Done, is the most bluesey and nonelectronic this album gets, even though its got the accordion solo in the middle just a great breathier at the end of a weird drone sounding album. The history behind the final track Humoresque, is extremely interesting. The piece came from a manuscript that came to fruition when Jack White purchased a manuscript written by Al Capone while in Alcatraz, containing self-written lyrics to the Dvorak piece Humoresque. Nice, quiet, and chill, great finisher to an amazing album.
Overall, this album I think the best music Jack White has made since his days in The White Stripes. Just based on how much of an experimental departure this is for Jack White both sonically and production wise. While there are great standouts on the album, this is one of those albums it has to be listened to in its entirety to get its whole experience. Standout tracks: Connected by Love, Why Walk a Dog, Corporation, Hypermisophoniac, Ice Station Zebra, Over and Over and Over, Get In The Mind Shaft, and Humoresque.