St. Lucia’s second LP is aptly titled Matter, and I say that because the album sounds like it’s chock-full of it. Songs are driven by grandiose synth arrangements and triumphant choruses. Admittedly, the man behind the stage name, Jean-Philip Grobler does a pretty good job in that area. And he must know that as that sound occupies a good majority of the album. This is a problem as the songs start to sound like they’re trying to achieve some perpetual high and eventually just slur into each other.
Take penultimate song “Help Me Run Away”. By the time the song comes along, not even the extravagant synths, sounding like the sonic equivalent of a light show could save the chorus from redundant mediocrity. And while the verses should be able to act as a refuge against the synth barrage, there’s a couple of songs where the verses just sound like a placeholder until the next chorus comes to pass, such as in the annoying cut “Physical”. Additionally, Grobler’s voice sounds so much less committed to the verses, falling especially flat during sections in a lower tessitura.
All of this isn’t to say that the album can’t be enjoyable. The first three songs seem to be the most effective on the album, and not just because the songs start sounding the same as it goes on. Opener “Do You Remember” is a strong attempt at a synth-pop/rock collaboration, sounding reminiscent of Chvrches excellent “The Mother We Share”. Follow-up song “Home” is a nice change from the majority of Matter in that it has a catchy verse and the song manages to hold off the theatrical fireworks until the end. Next on the track list is “Dancing on Glass”, probably the album’s biggest success. Featuring a gold rift that squeezes itself in and out of the song at a moment’s notice, it’s the sunny pop that you wish the whole album measured up to. The lyrics sound pessimistic for such bouncy pop, featuring lines like “How long till we learn dancing is dangerous” which makes sense considering the song is called “Dancing on Glass”. There’s ambiguity in it too as Grobler sings “Never gonna stop until we break it.” Whether he’s referring to breaking the cycle of making poor choices or breaking the glass further is unclear, but it’s a rare moment where the lyrics are worth paying attention to.
Other songs have moderate success on their own. Final track “Always”, though sounding like a cheesy crossover between High School Musical and The Breakfast Club, is an endearing goodbye both as a closer to the album, and to a special someone. The choruses of “Game 4 U” and “The Winds of Change” are decently appealing as well.
It’s a shame that St. Lucia’s work is riddled by persistently criminal overproduction and weak moments (such as the irredeemably plain chorus of “Help Me Run Away”). Though Grobler has certainly shown his faults here, he’s also showcased his considerable talents. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts and what he comes back with.