Santigold's Master of My Make-Believe delivers a wake-up call
Master of My Make-Believe (Atlantic)
A breathless mashup of electro, indie rock, and dub, Santigold’s self-titled 2008 debut album ensured that expectations would be high for its follow-up. The good news is that Master of My Make-Believe is even better than its predecessor. Santi White has said the album’s sonic direction was shaped by a trip to Jamaica, which goes a long way toward explaining the heavy dub pulse of “Disparate Youth” and the minimalist dancehall vibe of “Freak Like Me”. That she had production assistance from Switch and Diplo (whose own Major Lazer project scrambles the DNA of Caribbean styles) should be your first clue that she’s no purist.
With a vocal cameo from Karen O, the opening cut, “Go!”, thunders along with rumble-in-the-jungle drums and punkish piss and vinegar. Equally electric is “Look at These Hoes”, centred on a percolating beat and a buzzing synth line over which Santigold assumes the role of fire-spitting MC.
When the tempo is dialled down, White’s facility with melodic hooks shines through. “God From the Machine” and “Disparate Youth”, however, aren’t so much pop tunes as they are rallying cries. Master of My Make-Believe is driven by a newfound sense of purpose, and the lyrics add up to an indictment of America circa now. “Fame”, “Freak Like Me”, and “Big Mouth” address celebrity obsession, reality TV, and vapid pop stars who use provocation in place of substance.
“While we sleep in America,” White sings on “The Keepers”, “Our house is burning down.” Consider “Disparate Youth” the album’s wake-up call. It certainly sounds like one, with its shotgun-blast snare-drum hits and jagged salvos of postpunk guitar. The song exhorts young people to stop complaining about the world they’re inheriting from their elders, and to start doing something about it.
A pop record won’t turn our off-the-rails modern existence into “a life worth fighting for”, but Master of My Make-Believe is a brilliant collection of songs to listen to while it all falls apart.