It wasn't unexpected that, for his next record, DJ Shadow would move away from the general leftfield sound of his first two releases. What is unexpected is just how far he's migrated. From blues and Bay Area-specific hip-hop to Coldplay-esque rock, Shadow touches them all. But for the first time ever in reference to any of his albums, which have always functioned as wholly consumable things, the question is how well The Outsider actually works as an entity. The songs are all pretty strong, and to his credit, there's a kind of logic in the track order, with emcees like Lateef, Q-Tip and Little Brother's Phonte Coleman acting as the backpacker segues between the more mainstream rap tracks ("Seein Thangs," for example, a Katrina observance featuring David Banner). There are also softer, prettier melodies (like the John Cage-sampling "Triplicate/Something Happened That Day"), but there's still quite a disparity between them. And because nothing is really a continuation of Shadow's past work, The Outsider will probably disappoint those who were hoping solely for a sequel to Endtroducing, or even for just radio rap. However, if you leave behind expectations and simply trust the producer, Outsider is an interesting, if not completely cohesive album, and another glimpse inside DJ Shadow's mind. That's all we ever want from him, anyway.
Marisa Brown writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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