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Have a music moment with Jack White's 'Entering Heaven Alive'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Rock 'n' roll superstar Jack White has a new album out. It's actually his second of the year. It's called "Entering Heaven Alive." Music writer Al Shipley shared his thoughts on the new album with us. He says it's more acoustic than Jack White's prior release, "Fear Of The Dawn," and that's part of the appeal. He told us about a few standout tracks.

AL SHIPLEY: So "If I Die Tomorrow" stood out to me right away because it has a mellotron on it, which is the sort of early synthesizer invented in the 1960s, where the keys on the keyboard trigger, like, magnetic tape with recordings of instruments. So kind of before they had these computerized synthesizers, that was one of the first instances of that. And most famously, it was on "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK WHITE SONG, "IF I DIE TOMORROW")

SHIPLEY: A lot of the appeal of what Jack White does, I think, is, you know, he's one of the biggest contemporary rock stars who cares about collecting vintage instruments and featuring all these cool things on the record. So having this kind of weird, eerie flute sound that's not really a flute on "If I Die Tomorrow," you know, it reminds you of "Strawberry Fields Forever," but it's also kind of this unique thing. And he puts it in a different vibe in this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I DIE TOMORROW")

JACK WHITE: (Singing) So if I die tomorrow, promise you can walk away, OK, OK.

SHIPLEY: You know, it's one of the most cinematic sort of songs on the album where he's talking about, like, you know, if I die tomorrow, if my mother cries in sorrow, all these things and, you know, you don't know if it's this guy being, you know, in his 40s and thinking about mortality or if it's just kind of a character piece or something. But it has this kind of noir quality that he does sometimes where it's like - he kind of - it's almost feels like a black-and-white movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I DIE TOMORROW")

WHITE: (Singing) I hate to think about it. So it helps to shout it. And if you could help me out, it would mean so much for my peace of mind. And her heart is careworn and ever since I was a newborn, I pushed aside this worry for the sake of my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I’VE GOT YOU SURROUNDED (WITH MY LOVE)")

WHITE: (Singing) I've got you surrounded. I've got you surrounded with my love. Now, don't you know me, girl?

SHIPLEY: So "I've Got You Surrounded (With My Love)" is the only song that sounds like it could have been on either one of these albums. It could have been on "Fear Of The Dawn" or "Entering Heaven Alive" because it still has this, like, squealy, heavily processed electric guitar thing that he does a lot on "Fear Of The Dawn." But it's still, like, a full band kind of playing restrained and jazzy. Like, it never explodes like an old White Stripes song would have.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE GOT YOU SURROUNDED (WITH MY LOVE)")

WHITE: (Singing) We need to find a place that's neutral and get it in our minds now that the feelings mutual. appeals to.

SHIPLEY: "Taking Me Back (Gently)" is kind of a reprise of a song from "Fear Of The Dawn."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKING ME BACK (GENTLY)")

WHITE: (Singing) When you take out the figures and you pull all the triggers, well, you're taking me back. Yes, you're taking me back. When you listen to mystics as you lay at your picnics, well, you're taking me back. You are taking me back.

SHIPLEY: It's almost like this, like, Dixieland jazz kind of rhythm to it. So it's fun to hear him take a song that's really loud and really, like, one of the wilder songs from "Fear Of The Dawn" and then just kind of turn it into a totally different thing. Like, he had done this acoustic recording - it was 1998 to 2016 - compilation a few years ago and had all these acoustic songs from across his career. And sometimes, the White Stripes would do a loud version of a song and - or Raconteurs would do a loud version of a song. And then they'd do this acoustic version. So it's fun to hear him kind of figure out which songs work in either mode. And this one feels almost like campy compared to the other "Taking Me Back," but it's kind of a fun way to end the record.

MARTIN: That was music writer Al Shipley talking about Jack White's new album, "Entering Heaven Alive." It's out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK WHITE SONG, "TAKING ME BACK (GENTLY)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.