The Roots have long been recognized for their uncanny ability to meld elements of jazz, rock, soul and hip-hop. On their ninth studio album, the veteran Philly crew adds indie rock to its formula, and after two straight downer albums, it has them sounding positively re-energized.
The Pitchfork-friendly guest card seems like it would threaten to overwhelm the album, but instead the collaborators fit seamlessly into the Roots' signature sound. While the Dirty Projectors' mindfuck vocals seem a bit underutilized on the brief instrumental A Peace Of Light, Jim James's smooth, soulful vocals work excellently on the Monsters of Folk hip-hop makeover Dear God 2.0. Perhaps most surprisingly, a repurposed Joanna Newsom sample sounds perfectly natural on Right On.
It's not as if they need the help. The title track proves frontman Black Thought is as adept at crooning as rapping.
Top track: Right On