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DJ Shadow - The Outsider

Released on Explicit Lyrics, 9/19/06

DJ Shadow (aka-Josh Davis) made a career for himself by creating brilliant and infectious tracks that amalgamate samples, voices, and odd fragments of previously recorded dialogue. Shadow’s gifts first became apparent in his critically acclaimed debut, Endtroducing in 1996. Moody, atmospheric, and emotive Endtroducing, caught the attention of critics and listeners.

Shadow continued this trend in contributing most of the music for Unkle’s Psyence Fiction in 1998 and his second album, The Private Press in 2002. However, his latest, The Outsider, marks a departure for Shadow; however it’s a departure that should not turn off current Shadow fans and will likely bring in a new wave of Shadow converts.

The Outsider kicks things off with an intro that is vintage DJ Shadow. "Outsider Intro" is narrated by a dark foreboding voice describing the grim story of "the outsider". This dark tone is all too familiar to those familiar with Endtroducing or The Private Press. "Outsider Intro" is followed by "This Time", which reflects a decidedly 70s retro sound. Shadow deftly manages to make "This Time" sound concurrently familiar and markedly fresh.

However, Shadow begins his departure in "3 Freaks" with the help of Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk. "3 Freaks" (and numerous other tracks on The Outsider) has a decidedly hyphy sound to it with gritty, pounding rhythms. The sound of "3 Freaks" may come as a shock to longtime Shadow listeners. But, Shadow is nothing if not a music lover and no genre is safe on this album.

Case in point is "Broken Levee Blues" which is largely a rock/blues influenced instrumental track that breezes by in scarcely two minutes, but still leaves an impression. This mixing of genres continues unabated throughout The Outsider. "The Tiger" is more of a straight up alternative rock track that sounds eerily reminiscent of The Verve and Kula Shaker with a little vintage Shadow thrown in.

Chances are, you’re going to find at least a handful of tracks on The Outsider that will work for you. If hyphy isn’t your thing, there’s still some of the classic, emotive Shadow on this album to satiate your appetite for this kind of sound. There’s even a taste of aggressive, hardcore rock in "The Artifact", an aptly titled track if there ever was one (Shadow collaborated with former Rage Against The Machine front man Zach De La Rocha on this one during production of a jettisoned LP from years ago).

DJ Shadow’s The Outsider is an eclectic, engaging, and decidedly different album that can’t be accurately placed in a single genre. Rather, it’s more of a music lover’s cosmically influenced genre smoothie. Shadow’s talents are broad and far reaching and The Outsider is likely a portent of even better things to come for Josh Davis.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars