Album Watch: Santigold Welcomes You To Her 'Make-Believe'

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stop the presses, eccentricity is a "thing" now. Since Santigold came into fruition with her 2008 debut, a riot grrl album that expertly smashed together a pastiche of genres, being the odd girl out has now become a personality trait for the '10's mainstream. It's hard to adjust now sitting at the cool kids table as there is now not enough room as the 'freaks and geeks' have literally taken over. You can hear the "I'm weird accept me!!!" battle cries emoting from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and St. Oopma Loompa Candy Corn Olaf escapee, Nicki Minaj nowadays as everything off-the-beaten-path is couture. Even the 'awkward Black girl' is a 'thing' now thanks to Issa Rae's award-winning (and fabolous) web series (but for Santi and yours truly it's been a 24/7/365 'thing').

Prior to all the gimmickry and praise for the "awkward Black girl", Santigold represented what could happen when a Black female took Hip-Hop and Indie Rock by the reigns and have them wade in the same choppy waters to merge in an intriguing helter-skelter that was specifically evoked for the acquired palate. Gimmicky she never was as Santi White always was stirring a steamy pot of ideas and never seemed to care what the trends were---she just did her thing and made everyone follow suit. While she's not the first and certainly won't be the last, Santigold leads the cavalry of those today who think outside, around, and across from the box and on her second album, Master Of My Make-Believe, she just wants you to not forget that.

Four years in the making with a name change and spotted collaborations here and there, Master Of My Make-Believe, Santigold's sophomore album took, and it lives up to it's title and cover art. She prances around in her thought space as she genre hops from electronic-dub to reggae to hip-hop to post-punk and back to new wave as she morphs into various personalities all the while giving a critical mouth-off to mainstream popular culture. She is aware how it's become saturated in manufactured glitter n' incapacity of five-minute hipsters, posers, and those who have hopped on her steeze claiming it as their own---and she's pretty damn upset about that (seems like her and Marina & The Diamonds need to go bowling and grab some nachos together).

Santigold has hinted numerous times throughout recent interviews that Master would throw a critical eye to an American social culture sector that she feels has diluted music culture as a whole, and she fights back bitingly so---but maybe too hard, as somehow things seem almost docile on Master. No shade on her lyrical displays as in-between the spastic beats she gives a nice retreat back to her wordsmith girth which began so wonderfully on Res' one-off 2001 modern classic, How I Do, but when she tries to be a bit inventive, she she quietly drops those truth bombs.

Previously released "Go!" creepy crawls itself in with a methodical pulse, and runs around with Karen O.'s spacey interruption in tow and it's a sizable introduction. With it's machine gun guitar riffs "Disparate Youth" is near five minutes of sheer brilliance, and at times you want duplicate songs of this caliber---but they don't really come. Close encounters to it happen on stand-outs such as the militant percussive proclamations of "The Riot's Gone" and the "God From The Machine", with it's intriguing twists in production. "This Isn't Our Parade" is another favorite as it softly bounces along as it becomes the closest thing to a epic ballad from Miss Santi White, and it somewhat feels like a Peter Gabriel track in places.

Like mentioned, Santi doesn't mask her snarky wit as "Big Mouth" and the jarring, "Look At These Hoes" takes a jab at counter-culture and copycat drolling un-talents, as does the frantic surge of the crackling "Fame", and fun is to be had with them. Single material, and something ambitious on "Disparate" level, is "The Keepers" as it gallops and pinballs in a fervor akin to [insert your favorite classic New Wave song] as it gives the jarring line of "we're the keepers/while we sleep in America our house is burning down", a line that sort of sums up the message Santigold is trying to convey---that we are to blame for the states we operate in, and that we need to be aware of that.

As deep as the messages laced through this, Master warrants multiple listens to fully grasp it's messages. While that is all fine and dandy, Master on one hand doesn't posses the aura of going to a mist of unknown as her debut, which makes the album feel sort of uneventful on first listen. Going into '08's Santogold, you automatically knew something was different, but tangible it wasn't and you enjoyed going through that jungle of sounds not knowing was going to be thrown at you. Even with Switch and Diplo back in the production seat, Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O. and Nick Zinner, TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek, and Q-Tip in guest spots, Master Of My Make-Believe doesn't hold that sense of mystery.

At times, Santigold sounds like she's holding back and Switch and Diplo---whom both have now worked with the likes of Usher and Beyonce---have sort of become too latched into their past clientele---the clientele Santigold is jabbing at to where even they too lack taking risks with Santi. So an ironic air permeates Master Of My Make-Believe based on those factors as Santigold herself sounds unsure of where she stands among the mainstream darlings, as if she thinks that if she strays too far out of her 'make-believe' she might scare others, and might even herself, thus she feigns risks, opting to play straight throughout.

Master Of My Make-Believe's only crime is that it lacks punch to keep you fully invested. Though the album never hits it's brilliance level, you can't dock points for style, as Master is hellishly stylish and even in its dullest moments there are neat recalls of Santogold and all of it's quirks to make this a sizable follow-up and keep Santigold at the head of 'the cool kids table'.

Release Date: May 1, 2012
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