The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Santigold – 99¢ (Atlantic)

santigold_99centsby John Tindale

It’s been four years since Santi White, aka Santigold, provided us with the soundtrack to the summer of 2012 in ‘Disparate Youth’ from sophomore effort Master Of My Make Believe. Since then White has had a baby, taken on some acting jobs and, more importantly on the music front, ditched cynicism in favour of a more pastiche pop sound. What becomes clear over the course of 99¢’s 45 minute running time is that this is a move that at times leaves the album falling flat. ‘Big Boss Big Time Business’ is a concise representation of everything wrong on the record; in spite of a good beat there isn’t enough substance behind the M.I.A. meets Grimes vocal delivery to carry the song through to its close.

99¢ fluctuates too much between the bland and the blissful, as ‘Big Boss…’ is immediately followed up by the excellent ‘Banshee’, a track which brings the sounds of the summer to the forefront in spite of the album’s winter release. The excellent carousel production of Patrik Berger (Charlie XCX, Icona Pop and Lana Del Rey) and John Hill (Rihanna, Florence + The Machine and M.I.A.) works wonderfully with the playful pop vocal provided by Santigold. There are also excellent slower records; ‘Run The Races’ and ‘Chasing Shadows’ provide two of the album’s better moments. In the former’s case, Vampire Weekend guitarist-turned-producer Rostam Batmanglij provides flawless production of minimal layers to back the flawless vocal of White to wonderful effects. While in ‘Chasing Shadows’ (which was somehow lead single for the record over ‘Banshee’) the slowed-down trap beat is contrasted by high vocals and keys and works well.

But for all the album’s highs, there is never enough flow on the record to get going; ‘All I Got’ kills all the momentum that ‘Before The Fire’s’ excellent vocal and African drumming give it, by providing a repetitive and banal track which mercifully is kept below the three minute mark. ‘Rendezvous Girl’ shows everything good about White as she is able to provide a moment of euphoria in the bubblegum-pop ‘80s synths and falsetto. While ‘Who Be Lovin’ Me’ is a great slow track to bring around the halfway mark of the record as iLoveMakonnen delivers his sleep-inducing (in the nicest way possible) pop excellently.

99¢ hints at the excellence of Santigold, the one we remember from ‘L.E.S. Artistes’, though doesn’t deliver it consistently. There is too much of a fluctuation between the good and bad that just leaves the annoying thought of ‘what could have been?’; there is clearly a great album in Santigold, tracks like ‘Rendezvous Girl’, ‘Banshee’ and ‘Run The Races’ prove that – but for now she remains nothing more than a singles girl being tantalizingly close to being on the edge of greatness. (6/10)

Listen to 99¢ here, and tell us what you think below!

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