Santigold’s recording history is interesting, albeit uneven. Her debut, under the name Santogold, was phenomenal. Then she got signed and her quality dipped on the second album, and since then about half of each album is good. And now she’s released a “surprise” (unscheduled” mixtape, which isn’t risky when you’re Jay-Z and Beyonce but when you’re a much lesser known artist without a solidly proven track record, putting something out with no advance hype takes guts. And it better be good.

And fortunately, it is.

It starts with three hard-hitting, face-paced dance hall dub singles in a row: Coo Coo, Run the Road, and Wha’ You Feel Like. Bam. Bam. Bam. She’s letting us know she’s ready to open for the great Lauryn Hill on the 20th anniversary tour for Miseducation, one of the most important female-led albums in the history of hip hop.

The Gold Fire Sessions is all new tracks produced by Mixpak’s Dre Skull. A few are songs that she started working on for earlier albums, but never finished. Each cut has a strong Caribbean feel, which isn’t a big reach for Santigold, but she’s never sounded quite this sunny before.

Even the slower songs, like the hipswaying Why Me and the contemplative Valley of the Dolls work. Truly, nearly ever song is terrific and none made me hit skip. Not a lot of artists can do that these days.

Stand outs: Run the Road,

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