Santogold – ‘Santogold’

June 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, April 14, 2008.

Santogolf

Santogold
Santogold
Downtown/Inertia

On first appearance, it’d be easy to dismiss miss Santi White (aka Santogold) as the latest in a string of MIA-cloned, low bit-rate minxes. She’s got the musical hipsterisms down pat – the arty irreverence, the Brooklyn social circle, the PR-reared rebellious twist.

But the native Philadelphian is very much her own woman. Her burning self-titled debut reeks with individuality and reinterpretation.

Her references are clear enough. In essence, she takes us due east across the North Atlantic and then back about three decades, when Two Tone ruled London’s clubs. Santogold resonates with such a lineage; echoes of dub, dancehall, ska and punk swarm throughout her pop-twisted overtures.

While first single and album opener ‘L.E.S. Artistes‘ offers up a straight-up, new wave rock prologue, from that point on Santogold is scored with a healthy plethora of Caribbean flavours. ‘You’ll Find a Way’ draws from a smoking ska verse, only to drop to an earth-shattering rock chorus. ‘Shove It’, which features Downtown label mate Spank Rock, is dub and dancehall all the way.

But she’s unafraid to rock it post-2000 too. She delves into cracking, electro-jarred hip-hop on the ground-shaking ‘Creator’, which is straight out of the Maya Arulpragasam handbook. It’s no surprise that the track was produced by MIA’s in-house beat-maestro Switch, with a little help from Freq Nasty. On the other hand, the sentimentalist punk-pop of ‘Lights Out’ would find a home on any top-40 chart, while the stark, pulsing electro beats of ‘Starstruck’ offers an austere, new wave twist.

This isn’t a groundbreaking album, but what makes Santogold so appealing is that it rocks it with or without the PR, name-dropped hype. Santi White may rub shoulders in the right circles – “out of nowhere” she managed to open for Bjork at Madison Square Garden – but her debut proves that she’s gotten there under her own steam. It’s one of the more convincing, original and downright bangin’ debuts so far this year.

Dan Rule

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