There’s no shortage of synthpop bands in Brooklyn, many of which are innately unimaginative in both their music and monikers (which inevitably honor animals, precious metals, and marketing-friendly words like “youth,” “young,” and other tortured memes of uninspired banality). Luckily, while both Haerts and St. Lucia are of both the genre and borough, neither fall prey to these hokey affectations.
Haerts features solid, feminine, vocals and swaying, mostly mid-tempo songs that combine to form an auditory aesthetic that has become a genre unto itself. A few tracks reach higher, with pulsing beats and lilting crescendos that seem more designed to tug at heart strings than to invoke a danceable catharsis. The songs themselves are pleasant enough, and no doubt benefit from the production work done by Jean-Philip Grobler (a.k.a. St. Lucia).
They’re callow, though, and require additional seasoning. As with many of this genre, they have yet to ascertain how to provide a dynamic live show while still largely tethered to their stationary instruments. The highlight of their set was unfortunately Nini Fabi‘s white translucent flowing fabric pantalons and her crop top. Their charisma must match Fabi’s vocal abilities, something time and repetition and trial and error will likely rectify.
To the extent that the jam-packed room needs further warming-up, St. Lucia sets the proverbial mood with the impeccably-produced Lionel Richie classic, “All Night Long.” The Friday night crowd readily and eagerly starts singing along, just as Lionel’s lyrics request.
St. Lucia takes the stage, and even though they’re still a relatively new band, they’re showing maturation, even within the last few months. Their light show is significantly evolved. Their clothing has morphed from garish tropical colors into white and black; even the drum kit and bass toe the monochromatic line. They haven’t lost that bright personality, though, and neon lights provide local color (in conjunction with the music, of course).
But most importantly, Grobler immediately demonstrates that being a synthpop band doesn’t require the abandonment of dynamism. He’s prepared to move around, rocking alongside a fan at his feet like a Florida gubernatorial debate.
They begin with “Before the Dive,” a track that highlights his uncannily intuitive songwriting abilities, abilities which at moments channel the ghost of Wham!. Synthpop can rock, even on mid-tempo songs, and even as his vigorously played acoustic guitar is missing from the mix.
“I hope that we will never forget, seeing sinners of the night”
They quickly enter party-mode with “Closer Than This.” The smell of anxiety being smoked away perfumes the air (Doctor-approved, of course) and the dance party ensues. It continues, unabated, through the litany of catchy choruses Grobler managed to pack into one album. We wait for love. We stay, transfixed (“Don’t go, don’t go away!!!“).
We get a clinic, basically, in how passionate and vital synthpop can be at its apex. Sure, its easy to ignore 99.99 percent of the rehashed genre, but you ignore St. Lucia at your own cultural peril. Just based on his one album, alone, the volume of hit-worthy tracks make him an indie-ish Dr. Luke. After one album his project ranks amidst the genre’s titans, groups like M83 and Cut Copy.
They sprinkle in some new tracks, one a slow jam with a deep groove that screams George Michael, in a good way. Likely entitled “Love Someone,” it’s so sexy that people are probably getting pregnant from the lust ambiance, alone. It verges into that newly popular electro-R&B world, but remains a smooth jam that the progenitors of the art form could dig.
An M83-ish bass line, soaring ambient synth, and epic themality make “The Night Comes Again” a memorable track, and the lights echo its eminence within the show.
“Forgiveness” — a bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album (it’s 2014; why didn’t they just issue an EP???) — drops a fat bass tone and provides a rhythmic cue to the dancing masses. It’s viscerally enjoyable, for them and us. It’s one of many tracks that owe much to EDM cues, updating that synthpop ethos with contemporary sounds and a communal approach to musical enjoyment.
The lights build the show’s momentum, becoming progressively wilder as they mimic the show’s building energy. The room is ready to explode — yet again — and it does just that as they drop their Cut Copy-ish track, “September” amidst wild cheers and synchronized pelvic movements. It’s something cinematic, this moment. This moment where the organized cacophony surrounding us is so pure and perfect that reality appears scripted.
“I just want you to remember /
Before you get carried away /
What happened just this September.”
While this may actually be October, what just happened will definitely be remembered. And, deservedly so.
All Photos | Wendy Park
The Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA