Santigold’s self-titled debut was a late discovery for me — by the time I got around to listening to it, two years had passed since its release. I can just imagine the anticipation of a fan who had been waiting four years for a follow-up.
But the sophomore album is a treacherous thing. The conventional wisdom in music circles is that it takes 5 years to write and to record a stellar debut, and only 2 years to match that success. It wasn’t heartening to hear Santigold’s label was pushing back on the material she was auditioning for what would become Master of My Make-Believe.
On first blush, Master of My Make-Believe doesn’t hit the listener over the head the way the self-titled debut did. It’s a reviewer’s death knell to use the phrase, “After a few listens …” In this case, the album eschews a direct attack for something far more subtle.
Those few listens allow the songs to burrow themselves in the subconscious in such a way that the the spit-fire verses of “Look at These Hos” play on repeat. In your head. Damn, this woman is tricky.
The robotic opening of “Freak Like Me” becomes an ear worm. “God from the Machine” reveals itself to be an infectious tune beneath a cover of Cocteau Twins ambiance. Catchy choruses on “The Riot’s Gone” and “The Keeper” anchor listeners as Santigold tosses dub, military marches and rock ‘n’ roll into an effortless brew. “Disparate Youth”, of course, serves as the reliable radio single, but even its tunefulness can’t temper Santigold’s mad scientist tinkering.
“Big Mouth” was the unlikely first single from the album, and when it appears at the end, the big picture snaps into place. Santigold is every bit of the creator she was the first time out, and while Master of My Make-Believe may not be as brash as its predecesor, it’s every bit as bold and tuneful.
No. Not a sophomore slump at all.