The project of singer/songwriter Jean-Philip Grobler, Brooklyn's St. Lucia make shimmery, '80s-influenced, synth-driven pop. With 2013's When the Night, Grobler channeled the inspirations of his youth with more contemporary influences that included tropical pop. St. Lucia's music only grew more uplifting and anthemic with releases such as 2018's Hyperion, which incorporated elements as far-flung as gospel choirs and '90s pop. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, when he was ten years old Grobler began singing with the Drakensberg Boys Choir School, a prestigious mixed-race choir that performed for Nelson Mandela and concertized around the world. He started making his own music when he was 12, taking inspiration from Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Sting. Grobler left the choir and South Africa a few years later, moving to England at age 19 to study music at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts for three years. It was there that he met Patti Beranek, who became his collaborator and eventually his wife. Following Grobler's graduation, the pair moved to New York City, where he became a jingle writer and formed St. Lucia as an outlet for his own music. Combining the influence of his childhood favorites with the artists he'd discovered at school -- among them Radiohead and Mew -- St. Lucia signed to Neon Gold and released a self-titled EP in 2012. Their first full-length, When the Night, appeared in 2013; featuring the single "Elevate," the album entered the Billboard 200 and hit number six on Billboard's Top Heatseekers Albums chart. That year, Grobler also appeared on the Knocks' single "Modern Hearts." After playing nearly every instrument on When the Night, Grobler expanded St. Lucia's live band to include Beranek, Ross Clark, Nick Paul, and Dustin Kaufman. While on the road for nearly two years supporting When the Night, Grobler wrote the bulk of what would become St. Lucia's second album, Matter. Featuring production work by Chris Zane and a songwriting collaboration with Bleachers' Jack Antonoff, Matter arrived in 2016. For 2018's Hyperion, Grobler and company worked with producer Rob Kirwan on an anthemic set of songs that included the gospel-tinged "Paradise Is Waiting."
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 21, 2018 | Columbia
Anyone familiar with Brooklyn's St. Lucia know that they do '80s-style synth-pop with an enthusiasm and production sophistication that would make even the most cynical club kid take notice. With their third studio album, 2018's Hyperion, they blow out their big '80s and '90s pop influences with a sleek, dayglow production that shimmers with bright liquid detail. It's a sound the band has been championing since their debut, and which reached an apex on their hooky sophomore album, 2016's Matter. Based around longtime creative and romantic partners, singer/multi-instrumentalist Jean-Philip Grobler and singer/keyboardist Patti Beranek, St. Lucia make the kind of infectious, melodic pop that wouldn't sound out of place in a classic John Hughes film of the 1980s. All this remains true here, and gains added studio punch via producer Rob Kirwan, who has previously helmed albums by U2, Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds. With Kirwan, St. Lucia take their hot-pink bike shorts and classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer aesthetic even further with arrangements and songs that evoke many of the artists that have influenced them. Tracks like "Bigger," "Paradise Is Waiting," and "Walking Away," are buoyant anthems, rife with fizzy synth and piano riffs, stadium-sized programmed drum beats, and outsized melodies that stick in your head for days. Elsewhere, without ever straying too far from originality, they seem to be repurposing specific grooves from old songs -- like mashing up Genesis' "Invisible Touch" with Wham's "Everything She Wants" to create their own catchy "Gun." Elsewhere, "Last Dance" pleasantly brings to mind Songs from the Big Chair-era Tears for Fears, while "Brighter Love" sounds improbably like Jody Watley's "Looking for a New Love" if produced by Human League. What's particularly compelling about St. Lucia's vintage approach to pop on Hyperion is just how fresh it continues to sound. © Matt Collar /TiVo