3/5 stars

Santigold (formerly Santogold, for those paying attention) has returned from the depths of recording and record label conflict to deliver her sophomore effort, Master of My Make-Believe. Four years after her debut album,Santogold, blew up the indie music scene, she returns with an album that sounds more like Santogold: Part II than it does a sophomore album that can stand on its own.

Once again we are treated to her affection for genre bending — the album has clear hip-hop, pop, electronic and reggae influences — but this also means that many of the songs lean heavily upon what she created in 2008 and fail to tread new musical ground. Thankfully for her, her first album was one of the best of the year, and the material is strong enough to still sound good a second time around.

This isn’t to say the album isn’t unique — she bends the rules and creates some genuinely new sounds. At the same time, there is a feeling of restraint on many of the tracks. They are good, but they could have been great, and it feels almost as if she is holding back. On top of this feeling of restraint, there’s a sense of confusion. Hopping between genres can be a great tool, but in this case she lets it get the better of her, and the tool becomes a gimmick. There’s a lack of focus and cohesiveness that becomes especially apparent when listening through the whole album in one sitting.

Regardless of the album’s flaws, it is still an interesting record. It grows on the listener: The first time through, only two or three songs stuck out, but after a few listens, many songs began to sound better. Without your even realizing it, the beats and hooks of these subtle and thoughtful pop songs will remain on repeat in your mind for days. Much like her first album, this is an acquired taste, a slow burner that you’ll find yourself falling in love with.

Santigold definitely knows what she likes and knows what she wants to sound like, but in this case that wasn’t enough. She needs to further sophisticate her sound and get a full grasp on where she wants to go, rather than trying to head in multiple directions all at once. The potential is there; she just needs to harness it. Until then, this album isn’t a bad step on the way.


Song to Download: “God from the Machine”

Song to Skip: “The Keepers”

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