"Would You Fight for My Love?"
Released: August 26, 2014
"Alone in My Home"
Released: September 29, 2014
"That Black Bat Licorice"
Released: February 17, 2015
Lazaretto is the second studio album by Jack White. It was released on June 10, 2014, through White's own label Third Man Records in association with XL Recordings and Columbia Records. The limited-edition "Ultra" LP features hidden songs, secret grooves and holograms that materialize when the record is being played. Lazaretto was partly inspired by a collection of short stories, poems, and plays White wrote when he was 19 years old and rediscovered years later in his attic. Lazaretto debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 138,000 copies in its first week.
Sessions for the album began in 2012 during gaps in touring for White's Blunderbuss album. White told Rolling Stone in a February 2013 interview that he was working on "20 to 25 tracks." He explained of the new material, "it's definitely not one sound. It's definitely several. Like you heard in Blunderbuss, there're many styles there. I don't pick my style and then write a song. I just write whatever comes out of me, and whatever style it is what it is, and it becomes something later." He hinted during a January 2014 chat session with fans on the Third Man Records message board that he was almost done with the record. "I'm producing two albums this month, and finishing them," White wrote. "One of them is mine."
The Vault, Third Man's exclusive fan club subscription service, released a limited-edition version of the album on blue-and-white vinyl. It was packaged with a 40-page hardcover book, a fold-out poster, a National Archives photo that appears throughout the album art, and a 7-inch featuring demo versions of two songs recorded in Mexico, "Alone in My Home" and "Entitlement", the finished versions of which appear on the album. The "Ultra LP" version contains hidden tracks that are pressed into the vinyl underneath the inner label on each side of the record, a song ("Just One Drink") that has two different intros depending on where the needle is dropped, continuous drones, and holograms that appear on the record's surface when it's being played.
Songs on the album were inspired, in part, by short stories and plays written by White when he was 19 years old. He found the writings in his attic and reworked them into new lyrics. ""Some of it's garbage, and I sort of laughed while I was reading it," he explained to Rolling Stone. "I was going to throw away a bunch of it, but I was just coming up with new styles of attacking songwriting for the album." In April, a video of the instrumental song "High Ball Stepper" was released as a teaser for the album. "Lazaretto", the title track, was confirmed as the album's first single. White explained the song's meaning to NPR: "This was a rhyme about the braggadocio of some hip-hop lyrics — the bragging about oneself in hip-hop music. The character who's singing this song is bragging about himself, but he's actually bragging about real things he's actually accomplished and real things that he actually does, not imaginary things or things he would like to do." The song "Just One Drink" premiered in May.
Lazaretto was acclaimed by contemporary music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 80, based on 46 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".Pitchfork Media's Stephen M. Deusner remarked: "Lazaretto makes all of his other projects sound a bit scrawny by comparison. It’s the densest, fullest, craziest, and most indulgent that White has sounded". Phil Hebblethwaite of NME described it as "a varied album that lacks any monster riffs like the ones White used to write for The White Stripes, but includes enough intrigue, originality and plain weirdness to delight and, in some places, appal."Alexis Petridis of The Guardian wrote: "On the surface, Lazaretto seems to be the work of someone who's furiously angry at everything from "children today" [...] to God", but because the album "possesses both a sense of humour" and "a sense of perspective", that makes the album "a rather more complicated business than it first appears."
Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times described the album as "lyrically and musically challenging and filled with many fresh avenues of exploration, even as it nods to key tones and ideas from throughout the history of pre-rap American music." Jason Pettigrew of Alternative Press called it "more jubilant, unbridled and manic" than Blunderbuss, and that "Lazaretto finds him simultaneously unbridled as a player, yet meticulous as both mad scientist and personal diarist." At USA Today, Jerry Shriver found the release to be "highly-charged, wonderfully weird and typically eclectic treasure chest of tunes that rank with his best."David Fricke of Rolling Stone noted how White's craftsmanship on the album comes "with a decisive attention to contour, color scheme and cagey, durable detail." At The Oakland Press, Gary Graff illustrated how White "is, characteristically, more of a shape-shifter, engaging in gleeful sonic alchemy throughout its 11 tracks as he stirs together a dizzying array of influences, from garagey psychedelia to earthy Americana."
Lazaretto debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 138,000 copies in its first week. The vinyl LP sold 40,000 copies, which set the record for the most vinyl sales in one week for an album since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Pearl Jam's Vitalogy, which sold 34,000 vinyl LPs in its first week in 1994, previously held the record. Vinyl LP sales of "Lazaretto" during week one nearly matched the number of CDs sold, at 28.9 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Downloads were 41.1 percent of total first week sales. With 87,000 vinyl copies shifted throughout the year, it was not only the year's top-selling vinyl LP in the US, but also the top-selling vinyl LP for any calendar year since SoundScan started tracking sales. As of December 2014, Lazaretto has sold 325,000 copies in the United States.