MASTER OF MY MAKE-BELIEVE
When Santi White released her debut album back in 2008, it felt like the ideal 21st century rock star had arrived. Under her previous moniker, Santogold, the Philly-raised and Brooklyn-based musician waved all her aesthetic influences in the air, flipping from indie rock to ’80s new wave to dub like it was the most natural thing in the world. A former A&R rep and songwriter for the likes of Ashlee Simpson and Lily Allen, she’d logged enough time in the pop trenches to know how to reel off one killer hook after another (see singles like “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Lights Out”), all while bolstering her cool-girl cred in collaborations with acts like Spank Rock.
Plus, Ms. White rocked a pair of gold door-knocker earrings like no one’s business.
Four years later, Santigold is back with Master of My Make-Believe. Aside from the first track, “Go!” in which she brags about her singularity (“people want my power/and they want my station/stormed my winter palace but they couldn’t take it”), the songs don’t assert themselves with the same smart-alecky boldness as her first record.
That’s not a bad thing, though. After a few listens you start to realize this may be the more accomplished album.
On the single, “Disparate Youth”, you can hear how much Santi’s loosened up and allowed her music to breathe. There’s enough space for Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to swoop in and inject some of his warring guitar lines — jagged and lush melodies each taking a turn. It’s unexpected, and a creative counterpoint to the reggae-tinged beat.
Thanks to guys like Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, Diplo and Switch — a hipster Dream Team if ever there was one — the production feels a lot more imaginative all around. But all this would be pointless if Santi’s songwriting savvy had atrophied. No worries there. Set to an urgent beat straight out of Kate Bush’s playbook, “The Keepers” takes all of 40 seconds to get to a catchy-as-shit chorus.
Combine that with ominous lyrics like “While we sleep in America, our house is burning down,” and you’ve got a good example of what makes Master of My Make-Believe worth listening to.