If blues rock, jazz, and electronica married, Jack White’s Boarding House Reach would be their child. Opening as simple blues-rock — hinted with gospel elements in “Connected by Love” — the album quickly shifts into electronic over drive in “Why Walk a Dog.” Though written in 2018, the heavy reliance on synthesizers tricks the listener into thinking Boarding House Reach is something from the ‘70s.
Seemingly tormented by some mystical woman who has White’s heart under “her command,” the album speaks through the instruments. Wailing violins and bold piano riffs in “Abulia and Akransia” set a dramatic, yet thought-provoking tone for the rest of the album. Continuing to speak through the instruments, White emphasizes the endless act of holding the “weight of the world” on his shoulders through the consistent, mesmerizing guitar rhythms in “Over and Over and Over.” Sharply transitioning into a futuristic, Pink Floyd-esque rant in “Everything You’ve Ever Learned,” listeners can’t help but think, “What is White doing?” There’s probably no clear answer as to what any of these lyrics mean, but the overall vintage sound, yet futuristic feel, to the album is stimulating to say the least.
Swinging back to classic blues-rock with “What’s Done is Done,” the listener is left to assume the constant ache of not having this “commander” of a woman in his life is not gone. Perfectly executed whiny harmonies, with a soulful synthesizer, drive home the feelings of painful acceptance. Wrapping it up with jazz-like “Humoresque,” strong, minor piano chords conclude White’s creation. A smorgasbord of genres, Boarding House Reach is certain to take the listener on a trip that feels like a mix of time travel and confusion.