By Kyle Anderson
December 02, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

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Despite their buoyant presence as Jimmy Fallon’s late-night house band, the Roots have always been at their best expressing quiet desperation and spinning old-school tales of struggling upward. Their 12th album crackles, undun, with knowing lines like ”I live life trying to tip the scales my way” (via guest MC Dice Raw). That perfectly distills the band’s shark-like worldview, in which there’s no room for pregnant pauses or musical atrophy — just hunger. A-

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