Santi White spent years as an A&R executive before making her solo debut, and her seasoning, as well as her taste, shows. Mining poses from Gwen Stefani, Bjork and Grace Jones, and melodies from New Wave, pop and whatever else her laptop spits out, she creates a new persona "a black girl who's not singing R&B," is how she puts it, tongue firmly in cheek. She's also a fusionist who knows influences don't mean a thing if you ain't learned to sing. And sing she can, with a voice flexible enough to sound like her friend M.I.A. on "Shove It" and Blondie on "L.E.S. Artistes." "Creep up and suddenly/ I found myself/ An innovator," she rasps on the latter; for now her innovation is pastiche, but you get the sense there's more, and even better, coming.
Listen to TIME's top 10 albums of 2008:
Next Third by Portishead