50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

DJ Shadow: The Less You Know, the BetterDJ ShadowThe Less You Know, the Better (Verve /Universal, 10/4/11)

DJ Shadow: “Warning Call” (f. Tom Vek)

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After a lengthy layoff, DJ Shadow is back with The Less You Know, the Better, an album that will better resonate with his original fan base than The Outsider from five years ago. The club sounds that caused the consternation are gone, which should allow listeners to appreciate the producer’s breadth without distractions.

Diversity is on display from the album’s first handful of tracks. “Border Crossing” mixes sampled rock riffs with skittering beats; “Stay the Course” is a funky hip-hop track with guest MCs Talib Kweli and Posdnuos; “I’ve Been Trying” layers vocal samples over acoustic guitar, gooey electronics, marching snare, lap-steel guitar, and flute. Not far behind are the rock-hop hybrid “Warning Call,” featuring Tom Vek, and “Sad and Lonely,” a melancholy piano and violin ballad that also makes compelling use of sampled vocals.

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