, the collaboration between Santi White
and former Stiffed
bandmate John Hill
, first began receiving notice in late 2007, thanks mostly to the release of the single "Creator," which seemed to point White
in the direction of an M.I.A.
knockoff. The debut full-length, however, shows Santogold
to be a unique group, one that pulls equally from dub, pop-punk, hip-hop, electro, and rock without succumbing to the archetypes of any. Much of this is because of the contributions from Hill
, who adds plenty of guitars and warm keyboards, encouraging White
to fill out the songs, the verses, and the hooks, with her rich Gwen Stefani
voice. "I'm a Lady," despite the fact it could belong in the late-'90s pop canon, is delightfully catchy and inviting; "L.E.S. Artistes" sounds like a fuller, brighter Tegan and Sara
song; and "My Superman" is the urban 21st century's version of a sultry jazz standard. In fact, Hill
is so instrumental in creating the diversity and lushness of sound that the pieces in which he doesn't contribute, or contributes very little, are markedly different. Switch
, the producer responsible for M.I.A.
, shows off his impressive beat-making skills on "Creator," which features White
doing the singsongy rap that has helped make Maya Arulpragasam
so popular ("Me, I'm a creator, thrill is to make it up/The rules I break got me a place up on the radar"), and the Diplo
-helmed "Unstoppable" marries dub and Hollertronix
electronica nicely. These are the exceptions to the overall sound, however (and their very rarity makes them so much more appealing, and evidence of the work of a complete artist, not one trying to follow the coattails of another), because most of Santogold
lacks that jagged angularity that drives M.I.A.
's records. Instead, the album is informed by pop and good humor, the importance of melody and structure never overshadowed by rhythm and dancefloor-worthiness. This is music that looks outward at the pan-continental landscape while staying firmly adherent to and respectful of its deeply American roots; it's the emerging -- and hopeful -- face of the new millennium, and an altogether shining accomplishment.