Pick of the Geek: Santigold – 99¢

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The Lemonade-era urge among modern music critics to assess every pop album as an urgent sociopolitical communique first and foremost reached an absurd nadir when Santigold’s third album received mixed reviews.  Critics admitted it was a strong collection of songs, but noted that it failed to deliver on its concept, an exploration of the commodification of the self in the age of social media.  If you can get past that obviously unforgivable sin, 99¢ shows the woman born Sandi White on confident form.  She co-writes the songs with a wildly diverse array of talents from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner to pop songwriter extraordinaire Cathy Dennis, yet comes out with an album that sounds like herself and no-one else.

That’s even more of an achievement when you factor in the stylistic promiscuity.  99¢ opens with its cutest, poppiest moment, Can’t Get Enough of Myself, a gentle mocking of modern narcissism blessed with an easy swing and little flourishes of jazz flute.  It then jolts straight into the pummelling bass assault of Big Boss Big Time Business, on which Santigold boasts of having a “mouth full of venom/ I got the keys to the system”.  Two tracks later, Rostam Batmanglij (late of Vampire Weekend) produces Chasing Shadows, a perfect summer evening pop song built on the tension between its gorgeous doo-wop piano and White’s toasting delivery.  If the nursery-rhyme Who Be Lovin Me tips past catchy into slightly annoying, the descending vocal melody of All I Got’s chorus doesn’t make the same mistake, and the percussive, metal-inflected guitars of Outside the War sneak in yet another genre before the album closes.

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