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Santigold 99¢ Atlantic

It’s been four years since the last Santigold album, and 99¢ wastes little time in reminding us what we’ve been missing out on – her sharp observations of modern culture and the acidity of her tongue when delivering her verdict on it. This kind of cutting, expressive lyricism is the one real constant on this third full-length which, like its predecessors, fluctuates wildly throughout in stylistic terms. 

These artistic shifts are little wonder, really: she worked with a slew of collaborators, including big-hitting names like Dave Sitek and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. You get the impression she wouldn’t really have it any other way, but it makes 99¢ an enthralling listen one minute and a frustrating one the next. When she really taps into the kind of warped, off-kilter pop that lent Santogold and Master of My Make-Believe their standout moments, the results are genuinely thrilling: the marriage of a Lauryn Hill beat with a vocal that recalls M.I.A.’s more commercial moments makes Chasing Shadows a winner, and the spaced-out strut of Outside the War, with fierce looped guitar running just underneath simmering synth, is a real highlight too. 

Elsewhere, though, the constant shift through the gears begins to distract. Banshee is messy, with too many ideas and not enough cohesion. The ILoveMakonnen collaboration Who Be Lovin Me doesn’t linger long in the memory, either. So while it’s fun for a couple of listens, 99¢ isn’t the great album Santigold has hinted she could make but never delivered.