Essential New Music: Todd Rundgren’s “White Knight”

Only Todd Rundgren—wizard, true star, avatar of vocal blue-eyed soul—would execute something as trendily popular as a duets album. And only Rundgren would write all new songs for the effort, and then not even sing during moments such as the gorgeously gurgling, synth-phonic “That Could Have Been Me” featuring a weepy Robyn. Rundgren loves shifting expectations as much as he digs the notion of collaboration, as he’s played along with most of his production charges in his 50-year-career. (Google it.) That camaraderie shows through on the wriggly, Moog-jazzy “Chance For Us” featuring Philly pal Daryl Hall. With Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Rundgren harmonizes on the menacingly Trump-ian “Tin Foil Hat,” chewing on lines such as, “The man in the tin foil hat/Is sitting on the throne tonight/It kinda feels like a coup d’état.” The mixed-bag effect of White Knight reaches its best moments on Runt’s partnership with R&B shouter Bettye LaVette on the salty soul of “Naked & Afraid,” and his teaming with Nine Inch Nails’ film composition team Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the crushing, cinematic “Deaf Ears.”

—A.D. Amorosi