Monday, April 23, 2012

Santigold - Master of My Make-Believe review

I was a big fan of the Santogold record because it somehow blended indie, pop and ska in a way which was both fierce and fun, probably best exemplified by the transcendent You'll find a way. For all the rhetoric of Santigold (name change noted) being a musical visionary the lineage of her music seemed pretty obvious to me even I hadn't heard it in that form. There was a huge post-punk seam running through that record which seemed unusual because she was touted as an indie pop star but if you look at her musical history prior to her debut it turns out she was the lead singer of a punk band whose albums were produced by Bad Brains vet Darryl Jenifer. At the time I didn't know any of this but in retrospect, it makes sense that the album spoke to me the way it did.

Flash forward several years and the long delayed second album has arrived and it's a corker but not in the way I expected. If Santogold was influenced by post-punk sentiment, Santigold has moved onto her new romantic phase on Master of My Make-Believe. Surely I can't be the only person who listens to Disparate Youth or God from the machine and can imagine Simon Le Bon singing over these songs. Santigold recorded much of this record in the Caribbean and while a million miles of the cod-pseudo funk of Duran Duran and a bunch of white boys reclining on a yacht, on some of the tracks the atmospherics, pacing and synths do remind me of the 80's. I don't say this to be controversial but just to alert you to the sonic differences between this and the first album. The aforementioned tracks as well as The riot's gone, The Keepers and This Isn't Our Parade all draw from that musical pallet.

On the whole the album is reasonably subdued and runs on a downbeat melancholy vibe. these shadows is occasionally lightened by the clank and strut of staccato rhythms directly descended from the first record. Opener Go!, Fame and current single Big Mouth all ring with a percussive drive and funk that form peaks around the more melancholy songs. However, the drama in these songs is where the quality resides. For me, God from the machine is the strongest track, an oddly affirmative exploration of loneliness driven by a drum march and needling guitars. This song is indicative of the darkness on the record but it is not all consuming or suffocating, it is a sustained heaviness which is affecting.

While lacking the giddy rush of her debut, Master of My Make-Believe is a darker and ultimately fulfilling record. It's not for everyone but if you like your pop music with gravity and punch, this might satisfy.


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