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So, Did the Roots Justify the Gratuitous-Seeming Indie-Rock Guest Spots on Their New Album?

Yes! But back to that in a second. First, a moment to appreciate that the Roots have somehow managed to write and record a pretty great album while working a highly strenuous day job that also requires them to play music (and be on TV and occasionally be funny). Congrats, guys — that’s really impressive. Okay: So, yes, when the band announced guest spots from Jim James, Joanna Newsom, and the Dirty Projectors for How I Got Over (out tomorrow, but streaming today), it felt like a big batch of unnecessary-ness. Would this be Questlove’s totally justified personal appreciation for these indie gentlemen and ladies manifesting itself in an awkward public manner? What, exactly, would Jim James and Joanna Newsom and the Dirty Projectors add to a Roots song? And the answer is — not too much, but enough. You already know how the Roots used Jim James, and they show the same restraint with the other notables: The Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle pop up to harmonize oddly for intro “A Peace of Light,” and it sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the ice-cold album; elsewhere, Newsom’s sampled on the chorus for “Right On” and turns out to be as much of a fit for the hook as any given R&B ringer. Sorry, Patrick Stump: You are no longer the featured player in the most-oddball-but-successful Roots collaboration.

Stream the Root's How I Got Over at their MySpace.

Photo: Illustration: Mary-Louise Price; Photos by Albert Chau/FilmMagic, Sean Gardner/Getty Images