With Brooklyn-based synthpoppers St. Lucia churning out tunes, Phil Collins – you can stay retired. St. Lucia has perfected the tropical synths and heavy percussion sound that Collins became known for in the ‘90s after defecting from Genesis.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since their debut album When the Night dropped. After seeing them a half-dozen times over the last year-plus, I’ve been itching to hear the studio version of the new tunes they’ve been playing at their shows. Alas, on Friday, January 29, their second album Matter finally drops, via Columbia Records. It was worth the wait.
The brainchild of South African-born Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia is a project that also heavily involves Grobler’s wife Patti Beranek, who plays keyboards and sings backup vocals. Grobler has referred to the new album in numerous interviews as being more desert than tropical. While some tracks are more bare than on the previous record, that tropical synth and percussion sound that endeared many fans to the band is still very much in the picture.
Opening track “Do You Remember” is a slowed-tempo song with a banging chorus. Just two records in, they’ve really nailed how to write a catchy hook on just about every track. The chorus to this track will catch on with listeners right out the gate.
By the third song, the album hits its stride. Not coincidentally, these are the songs that St. Lucia has been performing regularly in the lead-up to the album release. “Dancing on Glass” first appeared a few years back and kicks off with a beat that suggests it could be a club banging tropical house song. “How long ‘til we learn dancing is dangerous?” Grobler asks in the chorus, quite ironic given how I’ve seen crowds bust a move when this song is played live.
“Physical” is probably my favorite song off the record and the most recently-released single. The verses build perfectly slowly and then the chorus washes over you like a nice shower on a hot day. This song is quite clearly about sex. “I’m carried away into the sequence, can you see it baby? And I’ll open the gates, it is my repetition disposition,” Grobler shouts in the chorus. And just as most great sexual encounters features a mix of speeds, so does this track, with a bridge that delays the repeat chorus that will have you pogoing in the crowd.
“Game 4 U” features Grobler delivering some killer falsetto in the chorus. “Because it’s true, I only play this game for you,” Grobler sings before a Thomas Jack-like tropical beat slips in before the next line, “I always knew my heart is just a chain for you.”
“The Winds of Change” is the most desert-like track. It’s pretty minimal in its instrumentation and maintains the same tempo throughout. “Love Somebody” has a similar beat and slowed-tempo to classic ‘70s R&B track “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics. It’s a recognizable beat that St. Lucia takes a slightly different place.
The rest of the record is solid and it has me anxious to see them again as soon as possible. Luckily, a March 10 date at the Fonda Theatre (SOLD OUT) and March 11 at the Observatory in Santa Ana are upcoming, as well as appearances at Bonnaroo and Firefly. These will be guaranteed dance parties/
It’s the kind of album that can be used in a multitude of ways. I’m sure some people will work out or PedalSpin to it, others to intersperse in between tropical house tracks during daytime DJ sets at a house party. One thing is clear: you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that does St. Lucia’s thing better than they do.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Stream St. Lucia’s new album, Matter:
ST. LUCIA TOUR DATES:
1/30 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
2/12 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Bar *
2/13 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews *
2/15 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix *
2/16 – Montreal, QC @ Corona *
2/17 – Boston, MA @ Royale *
2/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA *
2/20 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club *
2/22 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall *
2/25 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue ^
2/26 – Kansas City, MO @ Madrid Theatre ^
2/27 – Denver, CO @ Gothic ^
2/28 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge ^
3/1 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue ^
3/2 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market ^
3/4 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom ^
3/5 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore ^
3/8 – San Diego, CA @ North Park Observatory ^
3/10 – Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda ^
3/11 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory ^
* with Tigertown ^ with Grace Mitchell