I was misinformed. I knew Santogold was good, but I didn’t realize how good she was. I sat down with a friend yesterday and listened to the entire album the whole way through. It was a satisfying geek session to a degree I haven’t had the delight in engaging in for far too long. It’s so cheesy to say, but I think a lot of people who view music as sustenance not just entertainment, distraction or pleasure have needed Santogold to make this album. I did, anyway.
At first listen, it transcends the suffocation of direct classification by being a cohesive compilation of her musical capabilities. She offers eleven fully-actualized songs that really display her ability as a craftsman and her loyalty as a music lover. The key is subtlety and precision. She writes songs that have texture and range that combine key elements that betray her as a songwriter with the passion to mold a niche into an expertise full of technique.
For people who are only [or mostly] familiar with Santogold from the tracks on her myspace and the few Stiffed tracks floating around here and there [refer back to “I Believe. I Do.“], her album falls somewhere between the two extremes and everywhere in the outlying areas as well. She hyperspeeds through eras and genres with grace and respect, giving notable nods to classic acts, beloved tones and timeless approaches to melding melody by bending them all to her likeness.
It’s reminiscent of what I originally understood it to mean to be called “indie.” When I was first introduced to the genre, it was classified as such based on its difficulty to classify it as much else. Because rock ‘n’ roll borrowed it’s basic structure from rhythm and blues and a lot of indie music was deviating from the structure of rock ‘n’ roll it became this huge gray area for a lot of musicians to play in.
Some tracks like “Lights Out” remind me of The Breeders. “My Superman” reminded my friend of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Unstoppable” is a grimy dubfest with sparce percussion and thinly stacked vocals. There’s even a track that’s almost a mix of Bow Wow Wow, The B-52s and another era-specific sound I can’t identify after rifling through my sonic rolodex.
The bottom line is that this woman knows what she’s doing and does it well. Besides The Roots, I think Santo’s album is the first that I’d genuinely be interested in hearing the songs that didn’t make it on the final pressing. Her album is an occasion, a reason to sit down, listen and appreciate one of the few music makers who deserves to be the melody floating around in your brain.