“Master of My Make-Believe” – Santigold

3 stars (out of 5)

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Product DetailsSantigold’s (previously Santogold but that name was already taken by a jewellery retailer, of all people) second album starts with a magnificent, euphoric rush that would be near impossible to sustain throughout an entire 40 minutes. The appropriately named ‘Go!’ was released last year and features Karen O from the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s and, like ‘L.E.S. Artists’ from 2008’s debut ‘Santogold’ album, presents a new artist so completely at one with her craft  that you felt genuinely thrilled that she’s here.

‘Go!’ conjures up memories of Lene Lovich, Bow Wow Wow and Burundi Beat and has a dancing vocal melody which makes me want to pogo wildly in the kitchen (not advisable, very small space). The two melody-strong tracks that follow, ‘Disparate Youth’ and ‘God from the Machine’, establish a more downbeat mood and energy utilising ska, world music and reggae which is the overall influence on this album generally and is more of a cohesive and richer sound than that found on her debut which often went in some odd directions sonically that maybe didn’t work in quite the way that Santigold may have wanted them to.

After this strong opening it takes some time before the only other real standout track appears; a sing-a-long 80’s-reminiscent track called the ‘The Keepers’ with a big chorus and Talking Heads lyrical reference (‘We’re the keepers, whilst we sleep in America our house is burning down”) that does make me wonder why the trio of ‘Freak Like Me’, ‘Look at These Hoes’ and ‘Big Mouth’ are here. All 3 are Diplo and/or Swith produced and carry the frantic, rhythmic, sharpness of ‘Creator’ and ‘You’ll Find a Way’ from her debut but these tracks feel slight compared to the emotional heft of the remainder of this album.

Also all 3 continue a lyrical theme of bashing young female artists based either on looks or talent (‘You look good in Photoshop as long as it’s a day when it’s not sunny’ is a typical example) whom surely Santigold doesn’t consider her contemporaries? Lyrically it seems mean-spirited and at odds with the general tone and sentiment of the album. And the dour ‘Fame’ sounds so much like MIA that I thought she was the guest vocalist.

It’s been pretty well documented that this was a difficult album for Santigold to get finished explaining the four year gap between this and her debut. Big name pop producers were hired to oversee the project the results of which were subsequently scrapped; she may have a strong pop sensibility but Santigold is not just a pop artist and is certainly not a manufactured puppet. There is enough that is good here, just, to have faith that she will remain an intriguing and gifted artist who will finally deliver what she’s been promising.