Santigold’s latest exploration of too-weird-and-indie-to-be-called-dance music has her partnering up with a whole crew of collaborators and, unfortunately, it shows. 99 Cents doesn’t play like a cohesive record, but more of a patchwork of ideas some of which work better than others. For an album that presents itself as a satirical commentary on our modern day consumerist culture and narcissistic view of the world, this schizophrenic presentation of music may be intentional, but it doesn’t always make for enjoyable listening — at least not if you’re a “listen to the full album” kind of person.
The easiest tracks to digest are served up immediately, with the the feel good doo-wop pop of “Can’t Get Enough of Myself,” the slow and steady groove of “Big Boss Big Time Business,” and the eerie cheer pop vibe of “Banshee.” Even “Chasing Shadows,” a ballad in the vein of “The Riot’s Gone” off of 2012’s Master of Make Believe lays the groundwork for a strong album… but then “Walking in a Circle” happens and the record never really recovers.
How to describe this misstep? Imagine trying to run in waist deep water, while wearing boots, and heavy clothing, and it’s windy. It slithers along, like a bad acid trip, and never reaches a destination. To make things worse, the next song falls even harder on its face. “Who Be Lovin’ Me,” which finds iLoveMakonnen rapping and crooning along while Santi White appears to have slipped out of the studio for a drink because she only drops in over halfway through the song for a quick minute (the only pleasant minute of the song, I might add). The bulk of the song drones, stumbles, and irritates.
“Rendevous Girl” begins a slow recovery, with its synthpop hypercolor, but at this point in the listening the damage’s been done. Not even Nick Zinner’s wailing guitar in the hypnotic ballad “Run the Races” can pull the energy back to where the album started, though closer “Who I Thought You Were” makes a solid effort. It’s been four years since Santigold’s previous, superior, release and I had hoped for more than this.