Album: The Roots, Undun (Mercury)


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The Independent Culture

The Roots' 13th album may be their best.

Inspired by a Sufjan Stevens track from Greetings From Michigan, it's a concept album about the downfall of a young man, Redford Stevens, told backwards from the point of his death - thus avoiding both the sense of inevitability and the tragic bravado found in comparable hip-hop tragedies. Instead, it offers opportunities for more considered reflection on the values we choose in life, from the viewpoint of someone on the journey "from a man to a memory", trying to "leave with a little bit of dignity". Musically, it's a watery, wavery process of twinkling electric piano, echoey organ vibrations and scudding R&B grooves, leading to a four-part movement expansion of Sufjan's "Redford", his original piano progression followed by two further passages of sombre piano and strings, sandwiching a free-jazz maelstrom interpretation. The moral? "You either done doin' crime, or you done in".

Download this: Sleep; Make My; The Other Side; I Remember; Redford