Being a midwesterner during the winter solstice may cause you to seriously consider undergoing an obscure ocular operation similar to the one Riddick had done to adjust to the dwindling daylight and progressing darker, colder nights that seem to begin as early 4pm now. Even if you are unfamiliar to this I'm sure you can relate to the darker times in other ways besides on a weather basis with 2012 right around the corner, increasing unrest worldwide, natural disaster damage and the economic downfalls.
"Undun", The Roots 11th studio album captures the vibe of the above described elements in a figuratively dark, "bundle-up-it's-cold" perfectly fitting for the winter time record. The project navigates in a manner that the album title suggests. Basically, a reverse narrative beginning with a fictional character, by the name of Redford Stephens, waking up and finding himself dead to revisiting certain stages in his life that lead him up to the point that got him to his initial meeting with the Grim Reaper in the first place.
The genesis of the album feels like an episode of "The Twilight Zone" with eerie, spacey echos and a high pitched flat line noise radiating throughout the first minute or so before a brief soulful dream like intermission interrupts carrying on into the funky/minor-key, psychedelic sounding "Sleep" where the extremely skilled, but highly underrated Black Thought discusses internal conflict amongst himself from an insomniac angle befitting to the melancholy hook sung lyrics "I've lost a lot of sleep to dreams". Simple, but yet powerful paradox.
As far as guest verses go, the best placed feature would have to go to Big K.R.I.T. on the single "Make My." Not all the guest appearances add something, a flavor that Tariq can't carry on his back alone, but the poetic gracefulness offered by the label mate with an unmatched humbly soulful presence revitalizes the song a bit more and compliments the theme flawlessly. Black exercises his philosopher nature throughout the record, but especially on "One Time" with bars like "Not a thing I fear besides fear itself/ this is clearly a lesson learned for someone else/ Reach for the crown with thorns upon the shelf/ Cross upon my neck I been taught by stealth." The lighter contrast on "Undun" lies in "Kool On" with "Otherside" trailing right behind it featuring Bilal blessing it with a soulful hook standing as one of the strongest cuts on the album.
Overall, "Undun" contains intense moments of self analysis as well as heavy introspective lyrics with elegant organic live instrumentation. The Roots continue their reign of consistency proving they deserve the status of "legendary" remaining relevant putting out quality for a long period of time. There really is not much to complain about here; if you want to get picky you could say it's too short. Otherwise it's an actual complete body of work that flows smoothly, a very cinematic experience reflecting the mood of the modern times.