Shortcuts—RJD2’s The Third Hand

By Pat Skahill

Having spanned all genres from dance, rap, and funk to straight rock ’n’ roll, RJD2’s discography is, to say the least, diverse. So it really came as no surprise when RJ put his career on the line again by entirely changing up his sound on his latest release, The Third Hand. The result: a resounding success.

RJD2 has reasons to treasure the diversity of his catalogue. After all, it was his willingness to mix styles on the critically acclaimed 2004 release Since We Last Spoke that first shot him to prominence alongside the much-admired DJ Shadow. Never at a loss for describing his music, The Third Hand is, according to RJ, like “the Zombies, Steely Dan, and Daft Punk having some brews in a hot tub.” Despite that rather disturbing image, the comparison is apt. The Third Hand brilliantly mixes poppy vocal harmonies with complex compositional structure and artful electronica.

The album is best listened to in one sitting. The pacing is excellent, constantly confronting the listener with varying tempos, fluid instrumentation, and changing dynamics. Tracks like “Get It” feature pounding drum kits and slight, cutting riffs, but meld wonderfully into softer tracks such as “The Bad Penny,” where RJ wonderfully layers samples together and evokes images of an eerie cosmic electronica.

Regardless of the album’s countless perks, fans of RJD2’s hip-hop oriented work may find themselves slightly disappointed with The Third Hand’s pop flavor. Despite this, the album’s brilliant production and fantastic song composition should be more than enough to win over even the most resistant listeners. Diverse but still tight and flavorful, The Third Hand is yet another genre-defying album to add to RJD2’s growing menagerie of assorted recordings, and it is one that will appeal to fans of all types of music.