The Third Hand (XL Recordings)
4 out of 5

RJD2 is great at taking the romantic, the gloomy, the downright orchestral and blending it all into a delicious mix. “The Third Hand” is a shift away from his previous hip-hop and breakbeat focus to a more indie-pop-meets-electro sensibility; according to a recent interview with Pitchfork Media, his plans for the future include more pop music than he’s done in the past. “I’m really a folk musician at heart,” he claims. And indeed, he played all the instruments you hear on the album and even sings on the majority of the tracks. A remarkably singer-songwriter-y turn of events, but really quite awesome.

The album opens misleadingly ballad-like, while “Evening Gospel” is practically an R&B jam. Ugh, almost. “You Never Had It” is more the kind of track you’d expect from a producer known as the king of samples – it’s chock full of sounds, textures, and melodies that reward even after repeated listens. “Sweet Piece” is one of the bigger, badder tracks, featuring deep, fuzzing basslines paired with signature RJD2 horns and a groovy little back-tune, while “Laws of the Gods” is a kooky Beatles-esque song that really puts the spotlight on RJD2’s vocals.

Hardcore breakbeat and hip-hop fans will probably turn their nose up at this (and to be fair, guy does peddle the R&B vocals a bit much) but pop the RJD2 way? Love it. – Natasha Stokes

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