RJD2: "The Third Hand"
Producer: RJD2
Release date: March 6

Recently relocated to XL, ex-Def Jux-er RJD2 trades in his icy indie production for what's being pitched as a more pop-oriented record, but ends up still sounding light years removed from what most folks would call pop. "The Third Hand" does find RJD2 indulging a newfound interest in cinematic melody, especially on the vaguely creepy "The Bad Penny," which co-stars a church choir and an undulating string section; "Work It Out," which conjures up, of all people, Steely Dan; and "Get It," a hard, direct descendant of RJ's recent DVD and video game-scoring work. The melodies aren't always there, and the restrained production makes for an occasionally nagging sense of meandering. Still RJD2 scores points not only for making a cohesive and accessible disc, but for hatching and adhering to a plan of comprehensive career reinvention. --Jeff Vrabel