The Roots Undun

The Roots Undun
On their 13th album, Philly crew the Roots continue their musical evolution with a Sufjan Stevens-inspired concept album. Undun tells the story of small-time hustler Redford Stephens, loosely based on Stevens' "Redford"; the song is reprised for a four-part orchestral outro. MC Black Thought carries the narrative, aided by expected collaborators Dice Raw, Truck North and Greg Porn, as well as Phonte and Big K.R.I.T. Thought's blank-slate persona is perfectly suited to a leading role, while the guests carry the emotional and tonal weight. Save for the Boogie Nights groove of "Kool On," the music is subtler and more downcast than on previous albums. From the mesmerizing organs on "Sleep" to the elegiac gospel piano of "The Otherside," Undun cultivates a desolate, sepia-toned mid-tempo feel. The storyline is easy to follow, but Stephens' character lacks the crucial details that make for a compelling narrative. Despite several highlights, Undun's mood and motifs make Stephens easy to comprehend as an idea without ever permitting the listener to understand him as a person. (Def Jam)