Described by frontman Jean-Philip Grobler as a musical progression from day into night, St. Lucia’s album When the Night is an alternative album that demands to be heard. Its tropical pop vibe recalls funk, pop, and rock of the 80’s, in addition to calling on traditional sounds from Grobler’s native South Africa. Here is my track by track review:
(1) The Night Comes Again
It’s that odd time of day: Not quite nighttime, and yet, no longer evening. The sun is still out, but it’s begun its descent. Looming synth pads are swirling around to open When the Night, symbolic of this ethereal space between six o’clock and nine o’clock. After about two minutes of priming listeners for nightfall, this introductory track explodes into an 80’s-pop-tinged anthem that could make Tears for Fears cry. This is where we meet St. Lucia. Right in the middle of a celebratory, tribal, chant that is as infectious as it is tropical. The night has most certainly arrived by the end of this track, and you’re left starved for more of this peculiar, wonderful, echoing goodness.
(2) The Way You Remember Me
Loud, brilliant, staccato synths accompanied by some guitar reverb introduce the next song. It’s considerably faster than “The Night Comes Again,” and it’s a welcome electrifying tempo change. Most of the album feels nostalgic, calling on tone and color enhancements like excessive reverb and chorus – but this track feels specifically designed to invoke it. This nostalgia, coupled with lyrics about your own self-image, memories of the past–it all meshes together quite well. Though, the most impacting thing about this track is it’s fantastic and bold conclusion.
The bold thing about this album, is its brilliant way of tackling subjects like love, passion, friendship, happiness, and blending them together in both form and lyrical content. There’s not a song you can point to and say, “Oh, that’s just a love song.” It isn’t that simple, here, and “Elevate” is a great example of this. “No one elevates you” is a line that is so ingeniously wired to make you look at yourself. It makes you look at where you are versus where you want to be, and makes you swell with the passion and curiosity it takes to get there. It’s magic. As if it couldn’t get any better, about halfway through the song there’s a stomping guitar riff change up, and a Michael-Jackson-esque group vocal that is, plain and simple, fun as hell.
(4) Wait For Love
Much of When the Night, is about metamorphosis–life’s inherent changes. This track is very much in line with the band’s style of mimicking these changes in the musical arrangement. Starting with a groovy bass line, “Wait For Love” slowly evolves into a loud, celebratory synth jam. There isn’t much I can say about this lovely, sun-kissed, track that listening to it won’t make readily apparent. Check out this video of St. Lucia busking down the streets of (what appears to be) Los Angeles:
(5) All Eyes On You
Much more relaxed, but every bit as St. Lucia, “All Eyes On You” introduces us to a bit of lovesickness for the first time. This song is a great companion to “Wait For Love,” in that they both come at similar themes in different ways. Where “Wait For Love,” is carefree and happy, “All Eyes On You,” is much more serious about the relationship in question. It’s about dedication, and like much of the album, transforms itself into a much louder plea by the end of it. And, oh yeah, there’s a kickass saxophone solo.
(6) Closer Than This
More nostalgia is on the way, as frontman Jean-Philip Grobler sings “I remember all the sounds you used to make,” at the onset of this particular South-African sounding track. Everything–from the vocals to the incredible percussion–sounds tribal and tropical, here, which sort of sets itself apart from other tracks that echo more of 80’s pop music. Essentially, this song is representative of the refreshing capacity St. Lucia has to surprise us inside of itself.
(7) Call Me Up
“Call Me Up,” is another backyard-summer-party-dance-anthem, but is particularly clever in its vocal arrangements of the final chorus. Like “Elevate,” this track is great at delivering a punchy hook, and then totally flipping it for the final chorus. You won’t be able to sit still.
(8) We Got it Wrong
If “The Night Comes Again” is the onset of nighttime, then this next track is what separates night from late night. By now, the sun has retreated below the horizon enough to make the sky an orange-pink. The album starts to transform with this track, into more of a live-instrumentation sound, into a thumping vintage techno good time. The synth melodies call us back to that of “The Way You Remember Me” from earlier, but the intensity is much greater here. About halfway through the record, there’s a sense of completion of what was initially incited, but now something new is coming. A new journey begins by the end of this really fun dance-track, and luckily there’s six more tracks to experience it all through.
“September” takes us deeper into the dead of night, where no light can escape. Now’s as good a time as any to indicate how well produced this album is. In the wrong hands, a track like this could have been dismissed as much too busy. “September” is a wonderfully different dance track that meshes live-instrumentation (percussion, brass, guitar) with synthetic (synthesizers, arps, etc.) In short, this track is epic.
(10) Too Close
Fans drawn to “September” will appreciate this further step into the darkness. When the Night has a great way of pairing these songs in an order that really compliments the nuance of each track as an individual piece, as well as its relation with the whole. “Too Close” is an apt segue to the title track that follows.
(11) When the Night
This is what we have been waiting for. The entire album has been preparing us for this monster track. At nearly seven and a half minutes long, it’s got everything that St. Lucia has founded itself on in the opening ten tracks, and more. It sort of blurs the quietness and the loudness–it unites the two halves of St. Lucia. About three quarters of the way through the song, the denouement begins. We’ve reached the climax of When the Night, and now comes the unraveling. The track sort of melts away, much like the passage of time after midnight. There’s a time of night when it’s no longer a raging party, but more of a mellow period of recharging. “When the Night” takes us to the party, but when it’s over, it rocks us to sleep.
This track showcases St. Lucia’s knack for backing an already-great tune with impeccable, chanting, harmony. Now that we, as listeners, have journeyed through most of the album with St. Lucia–it’s time to celebrate this fact. A positive message, wrapped in a neat, pop, package that is certainly sure to satisfy fans of 80’s revivalism.
(13) Cold Case
Slowing the tempo down again for “Cold Case,” St. Lucia reminds us of their versatility. “Oh yeah, they’re not just this.” It’s a daunting task to try and describe this band, and with good reason. The tracks are all unique, and yet are united under the umbrella of tone, color, nostalgia, and echo.
(14) Out Tonight
So, the album starts out with the coming of night. There’s songs to dance to, songs to rage to, and songs to lay down on a hammock and stare at the night sky to. By the time “Out Tonight” kicks on, the sun is getting ready to rise again. This is the cyclical nature of our world–mirrored in works of art for millennia. But something about this album highlights the cycle in a beautiful and humbling way. The first humans identified the “night” with combatting survival, not knowing if the sun would ever return once it had set. After all this time, there is still an emotional conjuring that happens at nighttime, all indicated in the wonderful conclusion to When the Night. Mellow, introspective, and dazzling, “Out Tonight” is the perfect wrap-up for what has been an incredible sonic experience.
See St. Lucia on the road.