Santigold - Master Of My Make-Believe

When you spend your first few listens to a new album trying to decide whether you’re disappointed or not, that’s not exactly a good sign. On Master Of My Make-Believe, Santigold has one big thing working to her disadvantage: When it takes someone a long time to record a sophomore album, people expect big things from the follow-up. The self-titled album that Santi released back when she was still called Santogold is now four years old, and in internet-hype time, that means Master Of My Make-Believe might as well be Chinese Democracy. Really, the long delay was more because of record-label bullshit than because of any indulgence on Santi’s part. But Master Of My Make-Believe doesn’t exactly seem like the sort of album that should take four years to record. It’s full of sharp but low-concept pop music, and it’s very much within the first album’s aesthetic universe. She didn’t disappear into her own brain and come back with a masterpiece. She made a sequel to her first album. And since the first album was very, very good, that turns out to be a plus.

Santogold was a slow-burner, which is rare for a breezy dance-pop album like that. I liked it OK on first listen, but it took a while to realize that I’d kept “Lights Out” and “L.E.S. Artistes” in constant rotation for months. Songs with hooks like that don’t necessarily reveal themselves at first. They sink their way deep into your brain, so deep you don’t even know they’re there at first. And it’s still early, but the same thing might be happening with Master Of My Make-Believe. With a few exceptions, the songs don’t necessarily kick with the headrush immediacy I might’ve hoped for. But I’ve had this thing on rotation all day, and I feel like it’s just starting to reveal itself.

The songs we’ve already heard, in some cases, are the weakest ones. The Knight Rider synth-tics and martial-stomp drums of “Go” sound nice, but the track doesn’t have the melody that those production tricks demand. “Disparate Youth” is a new-wave reggae move that really should be in Santi’s wheelhouse, but it still strikes me as weirdly cold and bloodless. Only “Big Mouth,” a sort of “Creator” redux, has the jittery force of her best updtempo tracks. But some of the new ones are just awesome. “Freak Like Me” is instantly-likable robo-dancehall with a great rhythmic push-pull and a nagging na-na-na chorus that I just love. And the mid-album one-two of “This Isn’t Our Parade” and “Riot’s Gone” are the ones where we learn that Santi’s gift for wistful, searching indie-pop is still very much alive. Nothing on the album really qualifies as a departure, but Santi’s lane is a wide one, and the album roams all over it. And even though I don’t like it as much as its predecessor right away, it’s already growing on me, and it has potential to grow further. So keep an eye on this one. We might not know how good it is for some time yet.

Master Of My Make-Believe is out 5/1 on Downtown/Atlantic. Stream it (for real this time) at NPR.

Comments (16)
  1. If “Disparate Youth” is a lowlight of this album, this album is probably fucking terrific.

  2. Whatever Stereogum….this album is great. Totally fun and what I wanted.

  3. Haven’t heard it yet but a “It Grew On Me” vibe is exactly what I expected.

  4. I actually had the opposite experience as the reviewer and found this album to be extremely “immediate”. So much so, that I was worried it might not stand up to repeat listens; although i’m not as worried about that anymore.

  5. I actually really enjoyed/am enjoying this album, possibly even more than her debut. The songs have a slightly darker and more mature/experimental sound than those on the first album. It has been a very long wait, especially as this album was supposed to be released last year and got pushed further and further back. I saw Santigold at the Berlin Festival in September last year and she performed some of the songs on the new record and I enjoyed them upon first listen.

    Her live performances are always very entertaining although she seems to be going the lady gaga-route these days with her costume changes, some of which are outrageous and just plain weird (including a horse outfit). I think this album is definitely worth the long wait. Whether fans enjoy the record on the first listen or have to play it a few times for it to grow on them, the result will be the same: they will very likely enjoy this album. Highlights include ‘Freak like me’, ‘Pirate in the Water’ and ‘Disparate Youth’.

  6. What a strangely neutral review…perhaps this premature evaluation was too premature and should have should have been put on hold until the reviewer had formed an actual opinion of this album.

  7. After a few listens this album has already got under my skin. It’s gone straight in.
    Loving this album. Who’d be a critic eh!? :)

  8. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  9. could someone rate it out of 10 usher-climaxes?

  10. Quick, someone make a mash up of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and Santi’s The Keepers!

  11. Ok, so let me get this straight…your premature evaluation is that its basically too premature to evaluate? My head hurts.

  12. I felt exactly the same feeling
    But is a really good album
    highlights – Disparate youth, Look at these hoes, This isn’t our parade

  13. Disparate Youth is awesome! Can’t wait to get the rest!

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