Once again cowriting all the tracks and coproducing several, she broadens her rhythmic reach with splashes of African-style percussion and heightens the drama on a handful of brooding ballads. She brings back “Santogold” helpmates Switch, John Hill and
The singer-songwriter-producer confidently skips across genres. African flavors bounce with new wave on "Go!" and reggae on "God from the Machine" and "Pirate in the Water." On "Big Mouth," the Portuguese producers Buraka Som Sistema throw pogo-ecstatic Angolan beats against wordless, staccato vocals, creating with White a type of techno-pop hybrid that sounds both futuristic and ancient. In "Freak Like Me," dive-bombing bass undermines a sing-songy vocal hook, and "Look at these Hoes" fires up subterranean tones and machine-gun rhymes, an alien take on Pop 2012.
Sprinkled throughout are more melodic, textured songs, underlining White's strength as a songwriter (she wrote the criminally underappreciated 2001 debut by R&B singer Res, among other accomplishments from a music career that stretches back to the '90s). Over rumbling bass and spastic bursts of guitar, "Disparate Youth" takes a clear-eyed view of street rebellions across the planet: "We know we want more, a life worth fighting for."
"This isn't Our Parade" and "The Riot's Gone" come off as elegies for what might have been; they could be describing the demise of a relationship or a revolution. Best of all is "The Keepers," a state-of-the-union warning shot tucked inside an engaging melody. "We're the keepers, while we sleep in America our house is burning down," White sings. Bad vibes are everywhere, but the chorus exhorts us to sing along and the beats guide us to the dancefloor.
White's subversive way with a hook and her ability to effortlessly blend dance beats from around the world make "Master of My Make-Believe" a deceptively breezy and enticing summer album. But dig a little deeper and the shadows start to creep in.
3.5 stars (out of 4)