In an age where going retro is often the hip thing to do, St. Lucia has found a niche replicating the 80s pop that Jean-Philip Grobler, the man behind the tropical moniker, grew up with.
Grobler impressed with his 2013 debut album When The Night, and his ability to put on a spectacular live set has built up a fan base salivating to hear what his newest work entails. Now he followed it up with St. Lucia’s sophomore album, Matter, hitting shelves on January 29th.
There are definitely similarities between Matter and When The Night throughout the album. Both make you want to dance at some points, and slow it down at others. But there are aspects of the old album that are lacking in the new one. Catchy bass lines are what make some of the tracks on When The Night, such as “All Eyes On You,” and the bass is not as prevalent on Matter. Grobler has said that some songs on Matter have more than 200 audio tracks, and at some points that is just too much.
Matter’s first track just might be its best. “Do You Remember” has that retro feel, but its lyrics even acknowledge that everything needs a spice of modernity, as its first hook admits, “we can’t pretend that times don’t change.” It then explodes into a glorious chorus that is just plain fun. But track two, “Home,” which Grobler says he has been working on for about three years, uses some brass (but not nearly enough) but ends up unmemorable.
“Dancing On Glass” is next, and there’s a reason it was the album’s first single. It tells us to stop at nothing to reach the point where we can let loose and forget our demons. More importantly, it does so using a combo of addicting melodies and captivating drum fills. The second single, “Physical,” follows with an in-your-face chorus that is worth the wait if you can get through the song’s annoying intro, which repeats “Phy-phy-si-ca-ca-ca, phy-physical” eight times. Plus, Grobler flexes his pipes in a bridge that climbs an octave (or two).
The middle of the album is less memorable though. “Game 4 U” is cute and is a welcome break from the workout that “Physical” gives us on the previous track. It’s played out by some beautiful sax, something that I’ll never turn down. “The Winds of Change” is good, but doesn’t do anything to stick out. “Love Somebody” dials back the metronome in a song longing for, well, love. “Rescue Me” goes on for way too long, lasting six and a half minutes. The percussion gets funky on “Stay” and Grobler again climbs the scales with his voice, but the song seems to approach to a peak that it never quite reaches.
Thankfully, Jack Antonoff comes to the rescue. You might know him from his days as the guitarist for Fun. or from his latest project, Bleachers. “Help Me Run Away,” co-written by Antonoff, makes it worthwhile for sticking around. Things speed up again, and you can hear a hint of Bleachers in the whole song. Grobler speaks of how much coming to the states has helped him when he sings, “America pulled me out of the shadow, pushed me up against tomorrow.” To end, Patti Beranek, Grobler’s wife and a member of the St. Lucia live band, takes the mic for much of the final track, ”Always.”
In the end, a band that kills it live was able to put out a studio product that’s almost as enjoyable one of their shows. You can feel the effort put into Matter, where the 80s influences mix together with a more progressive synth sound for a unique combination. It can get overbearing at times, but the depth and variety is appreciated. The album’s best songs are its most dancey, unlike When The Night, where the gems were the songs that came closest to alt rock.