The Third Hand is the first record on which RJD2 has played every instrument and sung almost every song. RJ’s always belonged to the clan of sample-based collage artists like Prefuse 73 and the Avalanches who’ve spent a decade trying to step out from behind DJ Shadow’s revolutionary, genre-defining Endtroducing…, so it would seem like abandoning samples and departing hip-hop indie Def Jux to do straightforward vocal pop would be a step backwards. But he’s been leaning in this direction since his last album, the strongest track on which was a Cars-type pop song called ‘Through the Walls’. The Third Hand is definitely mellower, and no matter what he says, it’s a producer’s record before a songwriting statement. The drums are still heavily processed and hip-hop leaning; only the rest of the instruments are played live. The songs, though, are weak stabs at fitting melodies to what would make perfect rap beats — it’s no retreat, but no revolution either.