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Rob Thomas, ‘The Great Unknown’

Rob Thomas has had success as the front man for Matchbox Twenty, a solo artist, and a songwriter and vocalist for hire over the last 20 years by adhering to a classic pop formula: catchy melodies, lyrics straightforward in their universality, and crisp production. On his third solo album, “The Great Unknown,” Thomas continues briskly down the middle of the road with a collection of jaunty pop ditties, brooding midtempo rockers, and heartfelt piano ballads. The best of these, like “Absence of Affection” and “Hold on Forever,” are pleasant earworms. More promising is his vocal evolution. Thomas is either becoming a stronger, more nuanced singer or continuing to learn how to write in a way that more effectively displays the various facets of his voice.SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “Absence of Affection”

Rob Thomas plays MixFest on Sept. 19.