Downtown/Inertia, 2008

“The rules are…there are no rules” intoned one time (Transvision) vamp Wendy James and is a maxim which Santi White, better known as Santogold, takes to heart. Older and wiser than most of her peers — her C.V. includes stints as A&R rep for Epic Records and singer in rock/ska band Stiffed — Brooklyn based Santogold pours equal parts Jamaican derived dub, reggae and ska with more traditional western fare of indie rock, electronica and punk into a blender set to high.

With swaggering self-confidence “L.E.S. Artistes” describes the escape from the artistic rut of New York’s Lower East Side atop a dazzlingly new wave anthem which Tegan and Sarah would gladly pawn their Moogs for. “Find a Way” continues Santogold’s quest for identity with a formidable blast of ska and punk, the chorus recalling US post-punks Devo. “Shove It” is a decent stab at reggae marred by a middle eight featuring the dubious toasting talents of Spank Rock. In fact here’s a hint: skip any track which include a “featuring”, “versus” or “Remix” in the title, except for the sassy, Pretenders school of pop that is “She’s a Lady”.

“Say Aha” continues the harmonious matrimony of Caribbean and Western music, however the boasting in the album’s most dub oriented cuts, “Creator” and “Unstoppable”, are tiresome and see Santogold edge dangerously close to the genres of Hip-Hop and R&B that she is so eager to disassociate herself from. “My Superman”‘s mix of moody pop and dub has a touch of the Karen O’s and is an ideal showcase for White’s elastic vocal range. “Lights Out” and “Startstruck” continue the upswing in album quality, the former returning to the synth-pop perfection of “L.E.S. Artistes” while the latter, a sinister tale of obsession, demonstrates how effective dub can be with the right lyrical and musical tone. Disregarding the unnecessary remix of “You’ll Find a Way”, “Anne” ends Santogold in muted, electro fashion with lines such as “Go numb from how bad I want it/See it there but it’s too far ahead” providing an effective flipside to the optimistic opener.

Despite a few non-songs, Santogold the album and Santogold the artist, successfully measures up to the hype and expectations generated by bloggers and webzines since her MySpace debut last year. She may not be the second coming as suggested by some, but based on her debut she should be around long enough to witness it.