Santogold, a singer from Brooklyn by way of Philadelphia whose real name is Shanti White, is a one-woman melting pot of pop-music styles. Her much-hyped debut album moves from ’80s new wave and bubbly punk-ska to electroclash and bare-bones, dub-informed dance-floor numbers, often in the same song. The lead single, “Creator,” produced by Switch and FreQ Nasty, is a squeaky, slithering dance track with booming bass and a chorus that recalls M.I.A., but the second single, “L.E.S. Artistes,”—“I can say I hope it will be worth what I’ll give up”—could fit nicely on a John Hughes soundtrack. What holds the whole thing together is the various producers’ tastes for intricate rhythms, on both the bottom-heavy bangers and the rock tracks recorded with live bass and drums, and White’s ear for equally complex hooks.
Despite the consistently high quality, though, White feels like she’s struggling to break through the catalog of references toward something personal. The constant echoes hint that she has an enormous record collection and voracious tastes. What she doesn’t quite have yet is a voice that’s her own. Santogold stands up anyway—it’s a brilliant and hungry debut—but it holds promise for more. Whether White can make it through the industry ringer that’s already snatched her two singles for widespread commercial endorsements to deliver more will have to wait for the follow-up.