Game Theory captures the energy of the Roots' live shows, and is a welcome return to form following the patchy (yet still entertaining) Tipping Point. The album mixes the crisp beats and wordplay of Things Fall Apart with the ferocity and eclecticism of Phrenology. Importantly, the band have trimmed the fat from some of their more self-indulgenct work - no spoken word or avant garde jazz here, and no tracks outstays its welcome.
The resulting effort is a rewarding listen, buoyed by the return of Malik B and excellent guitar work from new member Captain Kirk, whose onstage antics were a highlight of last year's international shows. Black Thought also brings a renewed energy to his role as frontman of what is far and away the best hip hop band in the world.
Highlights include the fury and energy of In The Music and Here I Come, the shuffling, strangely compelling Baby, and the soulful, uplifting Long Time, which may be the catchiest Roots track since The Seed 2.0. The album also doesn't want for variety, with Livin' In The New World evoking the nerdy funk of Beck and the Beastie Boys and the languid Atonement built around a sample from Radiohead's You and Whose Army.
All in all, a beautiful and powerful album from hip hop's finest.