Just like the summer Olympics and U.S. presidential elections, every four years the public is gifted with a brand new collection of music from Philadelphia-born electrodub wizard Santigold. Her nearly self-titled album Santogold arrived in 2008, followed by her superb sophomore release Master Of My Make Believe in 2012. This year, 99¢ continues the singer’s trend of building infectious, body-shaking beats and mixing them with a syrupy set of affected lyrics. In short, expect the expected.
99¢ is a record of many different sonic flavors and emotions, but if it accomplishes any one thing, it will make listeners dance their asses off. Santigold is a master at getting to the very heart of what makes her music tick, and builds outward from there. Strong break beats and pounding synth bass lines remain the foundation of everything she creates: As interesting as the array of fuzzed-out guitar accents and keyboard melody lines are, those two rhythmic elements consistently jump into the fore as you wade into the waters of her colorfully realized imagination.
Beginning with the album’s first track and debut single “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself,” Santigold weaves a tapestry of catchy hooks amidst tonally disparate vibes. This song finds the singer adopting her peak sunny disposition, personifying a welcome ray of warming, whistling light delivered at the tail end of a dreary and cold winter. The dark and plodding “Outside The War,” the yin to the leadoff’s yang, comes across like a completely disaffected dirge, leaving the listener feeling that the chill will never falter. As different as both of these songs are, the uniting force between them is still Santigold’s ear for infectious, solid choruses, which are unable to shake off for hours after taking them in.
The high-water mark of 99¢ comes around the middle of the record with the back-to-back tracks “Rendezvous Girl” and “Before The Fire.” The most peeled-back songs on the album, their overall tone is much darker than most everything that surrounds them. Both these song feature a gorgeous ’80s quality, with the former recalling the shimmering, melancholic strains of debut album-era Tiffany and the latter sounding like a downtrodden Kate Bush deep cut.
Lest anyone think 99¢ is another melange of gloomy and doomed music from an artist whose most notable song is “Disparate Youth” (off of her previous release, Master Of My Make Believe), it’s not. Most of the cuts here share more with the cheerful “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” than the somber songs mentioned above. It seems as though becoming a mother in the interim has improved Santigold’s outlook on the world. The only problem is, she sounds far more interesting when she’s exploring the darkness.