The early word on RJD2's Since We Last Spoke is that it's something of a disappointment, especially coming on the heels of the robust, near-heroic Dead Ringer. True, it is willfully introspective and less frenetic than that auspicious debut; there are no headline-grabbing raps by his old crew, MHz, or loud elephant horns heralding the Def Jukkie attack on the mainstream.

Though it's billed as more of a "rock" album, there's only one straight-up rock track in "Through the Walls," a slick AOR cut on which RJ sings in a winsome, shy croon. Following the trend of producers singing, albeit off-key, on their own records, he laces "Making Days Longer," too. His voice successfully imbues Since We Last Spoke with an intimate touch. But the album still seems muddled, full of rhythm tracks that rumble along like aimless yet good-natured sampling jams. The funky disco beat powering "Iced Living," for example, collapses into an airy vacuum of guitar licks, while "To All of You" is a soft R&B ballad that goes on a minute too long.

Since We Last Spoke has enough keepers, including the blazing title cut and the funky disco within "Iced Living," to stack up against most instrumental albums, if not the wildly ambitious Dead Ringer. At worst, you could call it evidence of a healthy sophomore slump, a collection of great ideas that didn't solidify into powerful and compelling statements.