Review Summary: Master of My Make-Believe, though warmer and shadier, is still only a stone’s throw from the fantastic debut dropped by Santigold four years ago.
Through Santigold’s eyes, the world is full of possibility, but a damaging portion of resistance arrogantly broods amid an inevitable impediment from the youth and the “99%”. Indeed, this is Master of My Make-Believe’s
quasi-concept, and perhaps one that Santi did not intend pursue while holidaying/making her new album in the basking sun of Jamaica, for she strays from it regularly and wildly. But with all the riots, rebellions and uproars of socialism and equality, tumultuous times are evidently the perfect antidote for writer’s block. And though warmer, conceptually heavier and slightly shadier than 2008′s Santogold
, this new work bulges at the rim with her aromatic blend of styles: namely reggae and dub, whirled together with synths, cool bass, delay and sunset reverbs. As she aptly illustrates, it’s akin to the sound of old reggae played through a Jet Ski’s speaker, infusing its “distorted and grinding” tone. The explosive opener “GO!” puts this view into practice with over compressed offbeat jabs and sinister synth lines, making it even more suggestive of M.I.A.
’s schizophrenia, though, as always, less politically ambitious. This is about as far as she makes us delve before veering back towards her cordial 2008 sounds, taking the grind and distortion to season with.
Throughout, she relies on the vision of others to pull her dreams into focus; most of these collaborations work in the album’s favour. “Disparate Youth” – featuring hooks from Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs
) – is flagged by a strong back beat, burly bass lines and background buzz, forming its main progression. It’s smoothly lit by an infections delay-like piano during the chorus which is heralded by the reaffirming words “a life worth fighting for”
. Put simply, the song is quite easily one of her best. “This Isn’t Our Parade” and “The Riot’s Gone” also benefit from Zinner’s input. In both, Santi sings innocently, informing us of greener pastures ahead whilst being matched by calming and reflective (yet still punchy) music, all of which is channelled towards climaxes never quite reached – it leaves you wanting more. “Pirate in the Water” – the only successful Diplo
production available – harvests square bass, stuttering “nah, nah’s, nahs”
and 8 bit console melodies in unison to bring us out of this soft centre and back into familiar territory.
The only time she’s quelled, is when she loses touch with the likes of “Fame” and the later out-of-place Nicki Minaj
imitation, “Look at These Hoes”. Both feature promising urbanised (albeit tacky) beats and eccentric vocal articulations. On the surface Santi is appeasing her suspicions toward self-perpetuated fame and fortune, but despite her efforts they don’t work anywhere near as well as they need to alongside other percussive stabs like “The Keepers” or the zesty “Big Mouth”. But regardless of this, Master of My Make-Believe
garners an overall level of cohesion that exerts less vigour as her debut, only to make up for it in other departments. The familiar productions from John Hill, Switch and Greg Kurstin, scatter differing flavours into most tracks, presenting a dynamic production quality that Santogold
lacked. And unlike Santogold
, whose best moments fondled gold in one-off luminous glam, Master of My Make-Believe
requires a more thorough listen to fully appreciate the subtleties that hide amongst its music and lyrics. Some will appreciate this bearing, others may not. Nevertheless, Santi knows exactly how to generate a poised collection of feel-good tunes, even if they’re not all meant to make you feel good – it’s really just the side effect of her amiable music.