ARTIST St. Lucia
ALBUM When the Night
LABEL Neon Gold / Columbia
RELEASE DATE 4 October 2013
7.0 | 10
“We Got It Wrong” was one of those enigmatic songs that seemed to live on the outskirts of consciousness. It whisked in on the backbone of hazy synths and even softer vocals. It was one of the best synth-pop singles of 2013, yet it was extremely difficult to get a grasp on the full depth of St. Lucia, the band responsible for the single. The Brooklyn-based, South African born Jean-Philip Grobler, performing as St. Lucia, releases his debut studio album, When the Night, with the wind at his back. Throughout the Night, he keeps his sail set in one direction.
Grobler’s love for 80s pop serves as a major influence, which is generally a sure sign of ensuing tragedy. Yet Grobler is able to put enough of a modern shine to the more out-of-date moments. Opener “The Night Comes Again,” acts a Simple Minds-Duran Duran mashup, and Grobler is able to make the most of it by creating a joyous, communal introduction. The best moments occur when Grobler pulls back the curtain and incorporates sounds and rhythms from his native continent. When the Night stumbles when the music veers towards cliché, as there isn’t much lyrical weight to help support the album. Such is the case with “Wait for You” and “Call Me Up.” Both are serviceable pop songs, but also serve as charter members in the All-Fillers Club.
Grobler succeeds most in crafting a pure pop song on “Closer Than This.” Besides featuring his most unabashed vocal performance on the album, it also channels its 80s inspiration to euphoric results. He’s able to make the refrain, where he sings, “We’ll never get closer than this,” sound like the joyous climax of a long relationship as opposed to the beginning of a painful separation. There’s a joyous tone throughout When the Night, making it pretty difficult not to fall for the album’s charms. But you get the feeling he’s making concessions for a larger audience. And while he’s undoubtedly succeeded in creating some nicely executed and infectious pop songs, St. Lucia will become even more formidable when Grobler starts writing for himself as opposed to for us.