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Van Hunt, ‘The Fun Rises, the Fun Sets’

More than a decade after his celebrated debut, Van Hunt remains a cult figure on the pop scene: a restless, genre-bending talent more interested in challenging convention than compromising. His fifth solo record, after a four-year absence, is his most focused and affecting effort, accenting his funk-soul side and melodic instincts. He plays nearly all of the instruments, and achieves the kind of heated, raw sound that has virtually disappeared in too much of today’s overly manicured R&B. Hunt, like D’Angelo and Bilal, never loses sight of the past as he progressively forges his own way forward. The disc opens with a Crisco-fried groove about uncut lust, “Vega (Stripes On),” and kicks into “Old Hat,” evoking the spirit of classic ’70s soul. “She Stays With Me,” a thumping Parliament-like workout, and the unsettling “Emotional Criminal” explore the full range of Hunt’s elastic vocals. While still musically ambitious, Hunt is more disciplined here, especially on the ballads (“Headroom,” so lovely), which reveal vulnerability and a much needed maturity. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Vega (Stripes On)”


Related: frame by frame

Ken Capobianco can be reached at franznine@live.com.