Robert Downey Jr. joins the actors who raised eyebrows this year by stepping out as a recording artist (William Shatner notwithstanding).

Robert Downey Jr. joins the actors who raised eyebrows this year by stepping out as a recording artist (William Shatner notwithstanding). The public has written Downey off more than once, but his tendency to resurface with a surprising performance pops up on "The Futurist." Naysayers should not blindly assume that the jazzy AC album is a train wreck, but the journey does make pit stops. Downey wrote eight of its cuts, played piano on some and sings on all. His tone roughly mimics Peter Gabriel, and his phrasing can be painfully self-conscious ("Man Like Me"). The music isn't groundbreaking and the lyrics are a little odd, although Downey's cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" is admirable, and "Kimberly Glide" has a pleasant, gentle sway. This won't set the world on fire, but Downey, at the least, deserves credit for going full-frontal and not burying himself in the mix of an overproduced sound bed.—CLT