Sam Roberts Band

Lo-Fantasy (Universal)

Rating: NNN

Sam Roberts can’t keep his psychedelic, African-influenced groove under wraps. Light on the meat-and-potatoes bangers that rock radio prefers from him, his latest release experiments with a healthy amount of soul-searching while his 11 tracks roam unchained. Five full-lengths in, Roberts plays it anything but safe: nothing resembles Don’t Walk Away Eileen. Lo-Fantasy harkens back to the wandering vibe of his 2006 sophomore full-length, Chemical City, while retaining the jazzy feel of 2011’s Collider.

“I could’ve been a contender,” he sings desperately on Kid Icarus, the closest to a traditional single on the album. At times airy and middling, the record (CD version comes with gratuitous Youth Banda remixes) isn’t career-defining. Thankfully, though, Roberts is less concerned with sticking to a chunky, riff-driven formula than with experimenting with the many layers that he and his band are capable of producing.

Top track: Golden Hour

Sam Roberts Band play Adelaide Hall on February 13.

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