The Jack White Albums Ranked
Besides his great work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather, singer-songwriter and resident rock weirdo Jack White has created an impressive body of work under his own name since he began releasing solo albums in 2012. In the ten years and across four records since then, White has experimented in offshoots of his rock, folk, and electric sound developed across those previously mentioned groups. But he’s also added in new sounds and developed different approaches, marking White’s solo career as a separate entity and cementing his discography away from his famous bands worth exploring, as I do below.
EDIT 7/27/2022: Added ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE.
#5 — BOARDING HOUSE REACH (2018)
Favorite track: “Connected by Love”
Now, even though I think all of White’s solo albums are worth listening to, BOARDING HOUSE REACH is certainly the least satisfying of his records so far. It’s also certainly his most experimental, a connection that’s not lost on me. Sure, White goes to his roots-y rock sound with the record, especially with my favorite track “Connected by Love.” But the whole of BOARDING HOUSE REACH is defined by an electronic angle and over-the-top production style that veers into incoherent ramblings more often than it enables the kind of tight hooks I expect and like from White. He’s not always been some kind of rote musician, that’s for sure, but with this record, White was certainly tapping into a frequency that didn’t always resonate with me. That being said, BOARDING HOUSE REACH has its share of good songs, and it ends up an interesting, if not always compelling, listen.
#4 — ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE (2022)
Favorite track: “A Tip from You to Me”
Swiftly following up the release of FEAR OF THE DAWN from earlier in 2022, White’s ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE is a reversal of the energy of its predecessor. While FEAR OF THE DAWN was a work of bold experimentation bringing together many disparate influences, ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE is a more straightforward bit of mellow, guitar-oriented soft rock. White hits some high, slightly scream-y notes, as on “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone,” but generally he settles into a down tempo groove on most of the album, rendered best on “A Tip from You to Me.” Because of this, and because it never congeals into something really compelling as a softer piece nor excels as a “fun” album, ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE is also a reversal of quality fortune from FEAR OF THE DAWN. It’s not a bad listen by any means, but it leaves less of an impression than all of White’s records, including BOARDING HOUSE REACH; it just so happens that ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE is a more enjoyable, if more conventional, listen.
#3 — LAZARETTO (2014)
Favorite track: “That Black Bat Licorice”
I don’t mean to imply that the records that surround BOARDING HOUSE REACH were some totally conventional and traditional rock releases. Because LAZARETTO, its direct predecessor, is an eclectic, freewheeling bit of composition, albeit one that sounds more in league with the work of The White Stripes or maybe more specifically The Raconteurs. You can hear that especially in “That Black Bat Licorice,” which is just an incredible romp defined by the swirling and hypnotic guitar riff at its center. The interesting thing about White’s solo albums, and this could perhaps be best heard on LAZARETTO, is a hip-hop influence, which manifests with a different kind of beat pattern and lyrical delivery. It’s welcome, integrated well with the sounds you might expect from White, and a more satisfying bit of experimentation from the incredibly accomplished musician. LAZARETTO only falls with a slight lack of absolutely stand out tracks, but this is a relative comparison and should not belie the fact that it’s a confident, really enjoyable collection of songs.
#2 — BLUNDERBUSS (2012)
Favorite track: “Sixteen Saltines”
White came out swinging with the first release under his own name. BLUNDERBUSS is certainly the most poppy of his solo albums, but it’s not like his other groups were strangers to strong chorus hooks. But still, because it’s Jack White, BLUNDERBUSS jangles with an almost unhinged, warped sound, heard especially on the upbeat and poppy yet powerfully driven “Sixteen Saltines.” The record also sounds the most like a Raconteurs release, which is maybe why I like it so much. But really, all told, BLUNDERBUSS satisfies in the way that you’d want something that came from any Jack White project to: it rocks!
#1 — FEAR OF THE DAWN (2022)
Favorite track: “Hi-De-Ho”
In spite of my comments about experimental and pop sounds in this piece and others, I am capable of having discerning taste, thank you very much. White’s latest album, his fourth and the impetus for this piece, comes after the biggest gap between his solo records so far (at just over four years). But I’ll probably be updating this list quite soon, as at the time of this writing, White’s next solo album, ENTERING HEAVEN ALIVE, is already scheduled for release in July 2022. Anyways, White followed up BOARDING HOUSE REACH by progressing the experimentation as he’s done on a straight line since BLUNDERBUSS. But unlike its predecessor and White’s first record under his own name, FEAR OF THE DAWN powerfully syncs the expected hooks with spacey production, electronic sounds, and offbeat choruses. Perhaps the best example of FEAR OF THE DAWN’s power is the fact that “Hi-De-Ho” is my favorite track. It’s kind of a rambling song with many disparate parts that weave in and out, including a feature by Q-Tip. I did a double take when I heard his voice and thought “There’s no way Q-Tip is on this Jack White record.” But he is, and the song’s good, and in fact the whole record is good. FEAR OF THE DAWN is Jack White’s best solo album so far, not necessarily because its best songs match the best on, say, BLUNDERBUSS, but because its cohesive mad scientist flair fulfills most clearly and compellingly the artist’s eclectic inspirations and talents.