For the record: St. Lucia ‘Elevates’ listeners

Music columnist Meghan LeVota on St. Lucia’s debut album, “When the Night”

By Meghan LeVota | Oct. 22, 2013

Tags: Music

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Ah. So many great albums coming out in the month of October 2013.

Though I know it will be hard to compare anything to Miley’s Bangerz, I for one have been highly anticipating the release of St. Lucia’s first studio album, When the Night. I discovered the band’s single “September” on Spotify Radio sometime last year, and it was like love at first sight.

I quickly looked to check out some of St. Lucia’s other stuff. To my dismay, they had only released one EP at the time. I remember thinking, “Hey, these guys should make an album.” Sure enough, my request was eventually granted: They did.

I’ve always had a thing for synth pop. St. Lucia does a nice job modernizing the familiar ‘80s style while still keeping you in 2013, and not the ending scene of “The Breakfast Club.”

Jean-Philip Grobler, originally from South Africa, grew up performing in Drakensberg Boys Choir School. His background shines through in his music, complete with South African rhythm patterns and classically-trained vocals. Enough with those raspy sounding indie rock dudes; Grobler uses breath support and raises his soft palate high, like a true, technically-trained champ. Grobler then went on to England for music school and then later found a home in Brooklyn.

The album’s opener, “The Night Comes Again,” slowly builds up listeners with simple synth chord progressions, and then — boom. You’re in an ‘80s paradise, where everything is unbelievably catchy, and problems don’t exist.

Although you may have heard the song “All Eyes on You” (it’s featured on an awkward Taco Bell commercial), it is far from the highlight of the album. One of my favorite tracks and the album’s first single, “Elevate,” tells the story of a toxic relationship ending. Most of us can relate to having that one person who keeps showing up in our life, whether or not you want them there, but you care for them all the same.

A clearly heartbroken but vindicated Grobler beautifully wails, “No one elevate to, elevate to now / No one’s going to take you, going to take you there.” #SorryNotSorry, Grobler is never going back to giving out unreciprocated love. “Elevate” features a breathtaking interlude that embraces handclaps, horns and vocal harmonies.

“September” is another favorite — a song I had been a fan of long before the album. There are so many elements to this track, and Grobler introduces the listener to each of them one by one, before he even opens his mouth to sing.

The first two minutes of the songs are completely instrumental, beginning with a simple synth pattern that recurs throughout the song. Layers upon layers are added strategically; before we know it, this simple pattern is complete with a bassline, drums, faint vocal sounds and a melodic synth line. I’d like to think of myself listening to “September” in all black, with sunglasses on, with all of my hip friends at the disco club.

Other notables include the memorable “Closer Than This” and my new “on repeat” song, “Too Close,” one of the most complex tracks of the album.

Seemingly, there is a recurring theme of “closeness,” and sing-along vocals, where Grobler’s emotion is infectious. Bottom line: Any St. Lucia track is catchy enough to become a hit single, but not in an annoying “omg I can’t even go to the grocery store without hearing this song” kind of way.

I once made an argument to a friend of mine who is a fan of Katy Perry against pop music. I claimed that music was no fun for me if I could easily guess every chord progression before it happens.

Though this rule usually holds true for me, St. Lucia is the exception. It is 100 percent “pop,” and I love every minute of it. St. Lucia puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Five gold stars for you, Grobler; may you get hipster-famous someday.

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