It’s been far too long since we got an album proper from Santigold. While 2018’s warmly received ‘I Don’t Want’ mixtape gave fans some energetic bangers to tide us over, it’s been a whole six years since ’99¢’ lit up stereos. In her absence, the genre-mashing of indie and rock with dub, reggae, dancehall, and everything in between has almost become the norm. In this pick and mixafaction age of streaming, it’s sometimes hard to remember what impact the arrival of the likes of Santigold and M.I.A made. Now fourteen years from her debut, Santigold stands in a (thankfully) more inclusive and exciting music scene, filled with many artists who owe her and her peers a debt of gratitude. So what does this restorative lockdown album have to say?
We can happily report that the same level of energy and urgency that Santigold always brings to her work remains shining bright. ‘Spirituals’ is a bold and sometimes brooding beast, crammed full of first-class beats and sonic textures. Ever the collaborator queen, this fourth full-length sees old hands Rostam, and Nick Zimmer get involved in the fun, in addition to Doc McKinney, SBTRK, and P2J, to name just a few. The result is a slick and modern-sounding record that still keeps some of the grit of old. It’s as perfect sounding a Santigold record as you could want for 2022.
Openers such as ‘My Horror’ see Rostam bring that old Vampire Weekend whimsical energy to Santogold’s claustrophobic tale of pandemic anxiety. It’s a classic contrast of dark lyrics and bouncing beats to create something danceable yet memorable. ‘High Priestess’ can comfortably join ‘Disparate Youth’ and ‘L.E.S Artistes’ as a certified BADASS tune, all swagger, and spiritual empowerment layered over electro synths and pissed-off drums. Exploring the other end of the spectrum is the joyous ‘Shake.’ With the album’s title referring to the use of song to help the black community get through unimaginable hardships, the song drips with an almost manic joy while still containing a palpable sense of resilience.
While ‘Spirituals’ boasts many bold flavours over its ten tracks, it still feels slight. At just thirty minutes in length, the album is the shortest of Santigold’s career, and while it’d be a push to describe any of the songwriting as lightweight, it does feel as if too much fat was trimmed. Half of the album’s numbers don’t even hit the three-minute mark, often pulling the plug just as you’re ready for more. Digesting the album in one setting is like repeatedly snacking on something sweet but not substantial. Pleasurable, sure, but you never feel full. In this day and age of short attention spans and TikTok-friendly runtimes, these succinct snapshots might be good business sense but seem slightly scattershot when presented as a whole.
Still, wanting more of something is hardly the worst criticism to be leveled at an album. With this long-awaited release, Santigold has once more shown the world she’s one of the game’s most unique, imaginative, and fun creators. It’s good to have her back.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart