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Album review: St Lucia - Hyperion

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The first four tracks of Hyperion are pre-released singles, which established the experimental tone of the new album.

Opening the album is ‘Bigger’, a sun-soaked track that exists felicitously in the middle-ground between 80s and electropop, an established and well-loved style for St Lucia. In an interview with The National Student, Jean-Philip revealed to us that he is of a naturally optimistic disposition, and this emulates through the lyrics of ‘Bigger’, “So your heart is bigger than they say / Bigger than they say for sure”. The song is carried by syncopated, vibrant piano chords which build up to the song’s catchy chorus.

Channelling Jean-Phillips’ insistence of finding good is the second track, ‘Brighter Love’ (“I’m searching for a nightlight in the dark / A brighter love, a brighter love”), that's lyrics and a vocal melody belong in an 80s rom-com. St Lucia allow themselves to experiment with the backing of ‘Brighter Love’ - it's led by staccato synth pads and layered with electro-pad style vocal distortions which slowly intensify with the syncopated vocals in the chorus. The use of repetitive drum machine combined with such electronic sounding synths lends the track more of an electro-dance feel, a movement out of the band’s comfort zone.

This movement is synonymous with another pre-released single, ‘Walking Away’, which instantly commands attention with heavy, pulsating drum machine beats. The track is blissfully funky, encrusted with wavy electric guitar riffs and fearless synth melodies. The song builds into euphoric, climatic harmonies and electronic style instrumentation and synth-soaked brass.

Hyperion arguably features more of a vocal focus than the previous two albums, both in more complex vocal melodies, backings and melting harmonies. This is exemplified particularly in ‘Paradise Is Waiting’, with euphoric gospel choir style backings vocals (“Paradise is waiting / I can see you staring in the sun”) which encapsulate the joy and optimism of the song’s title. Jean-Philips’ vocals are particularly soulful, combined with a sun-drenched electric guitar solo, advocating intrinsic hope.

‘Tokyo’ features luscious, cascading vocals that caress the sung word ‘Tokyo’ throughout. St Lucia refuse to move away from the euphoric synth instrumentals that they are lovingly known for – but Hyperion also features full-bodied percussion, like the scraping guiros pared with a quietly confident bassline.

‘Gun’ is reminiscent of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’, St Lucia-fied in its pace and fortified with shimmering synth guitar chords. There is a slight distortion of Jean-Philip’s voice in the recording (“You said you wanted to feel a gun in your hands”) giving it an anthemic feel with its full-bodied backing. ‘Gun’ perhaps gives the most clarity to the St Lucia identity; framing dark lyrics in the guise of upbeat, euphoric synths. The song alludes to gun laws in America, but is largely a metaphor for a power struggle, specifically, how the media misuse their power. Also more similar to the tone of their previous album Matter is ‘China Shop’, a danceable track about the power of drugs with a lyrical nod to “white lips”.

Romanticism and optimism emerge as some of Hyperion’s biggest themes. ‘Last dance’ is tinged with night-drive nostalgia and romanticism, befitting its title. The synth-ballad centres around a beautifully distorted synth-soaked guitar solo, becoming the basis for the backing vocals which melt into the intricate, twinkling chords. Its lyrics yearn, “Oh no my darling stay here with me / Before we go go go / Let’s hold onto something”.

‘Next To You’, arguably the most poetic track on the album, is contrastingly stripped and slow. Composed of Elton John ballad style piano chords, this is a new avenue for the band, perhaps inspired by the huge success of the Spotify sessions, particularly the acoustic of ‘Closer Than This’. ‘Next To You’ is a ballad with an appreciation of small things in a world that’s changed:  “It’s alright when I fall asleep next to you / I turn off the lights and look up at the stars”. The tone of the song is intensified with the implement of the saxophone.

Hyperion showcases St Lucia’s vocal ability and diversity within their sound, without completely moving away from their identity as artists. Lyrics, particularly in ‘Gun’, go deeper than the euphoric synths that frame them.

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