St. Lucia Matter on LP
Emotional moments are Jean-Philip Grobler's specialty. Under the name St. Lucia, he crafts the kind of high-energy, artful pop that tugs at the heartstrings as it pulls you onto the dance floor, and in four short years, he's amassed a lifetime of highlights. It's all been the prelude to Matter, St. Lucia's second full-length release and most exhilarating collection yet. The record finds a more sophisticated and bold Grobler grappling with themes of getting older, battling with insecurity and self-doubt while balancing maturity and ambition. It's a St. Lucia record though, so even the darkest moments are bristling with infectious vitality and hook-fueled charisma.
Writing the songs, however, required Grobler to change up his process from 2013's When The Night, the debut album he built from the ground up playing nearly every instrument himself in his Brooklyn studio. Grobler programmed beats and synths on the computer as he criss-crossed the country on endless tours, discovering that the new limitations forced him to be more concise and decisive in his arrangements, a quality that carried over into the recording sessions with producer Chris Zane (Passion Pit, The Walkmen). For six months, the two laid down all the ideas Grobler had collected for the new songs – with Zane contributing much of the percussion and the St. Lucia live band members (Ross Clark, Nick Paul, Dustin Kaufman, and Patti Beranek) making appearances throughout – before whittling down the arrangements to their most direct, essential cores.
"We didn't hold back during the recording process. Almost every song ended up having at least 200 audio tracks, and we weren't mixing as we went along. So, when it came time to actually mix the album, it was this process of elimination with all the instruments, and it felt refreshing to not have everything playing at the same time, to have a lot more space," says Grobler. "On the last record, I was trying to fit every instrument on every track, layering all these lush sounds. If the last album sounded like the tropics, this album is the desert."
St. Lucia's version of the desert is still an inviting place, though, one inspired by blending Grobler's love of 80's pop, R&B, and alternative rock influences into an instantly captivating concoction. Lead single "Dancing On Glass," which was co-written with Tim Pagnotta (Walk The Moon), bubbles over with contagious vivacity as Grobler sings about having the faith to chase what makes you happy, even if logic and practicality tell you it's bound to fall apart. On the heart pounding "Physical," he taps into primal lust, while "Help Me Run Away," co-written with Jack Antonoff (fun./Bleachers), serves as a ode to Grobler's adopted homeland of America. The album isn't without its progressive side, though, revealed in songs like "Rescue Me" and "Home", whose synth lines propels the tunes through countless electronic twists and turns.
Though synth-pop has been an easy and reductive label used to categorize St. Lucia, most of the songs on Matter feature as much electric guitar, explosive percussion and complex brass arrangements as synthesizers. Nearly every track on the album contains horns and multi-part vocal arrangements, their sophistication reflective of Grobler's lifetime of music study.