St Beauty band left a mark since seeing them live two years ago. When Belle and Valentino performed “Going Nowhere,” it became a very frequent listen, instantly. I kept up with the band via their single releases, social media, and email blasts. Needless to say, I was greatly anticipating this project.
The caliber and standard they’ve set with this debut EP, which feels more like an album, is noteworthy. Despite stand-out tracks, there isn’t a song on the album that I would consider weaker than the next. I listen to the album all the way through, each and every time. What first attracted me to the band, is what I believe sustains this album, a deliberately elusive sense of balanced sound.
The duo, St. Beauty, met while working at a vintage store. They found their call to music through locally curated art and music shows held at this vintage store, “Poor Little Rich Girl,” in Atlanta. When Alex Belle asked Isis Valentino if she knew a guitarist, neither of them anticipated that it would land them together as a powerhouse duo, under the Wonderland family of artists. Under the mentorship of Janelle Monae, St. Beauty found their home at the beautiful intersection of art, sound, and style.
Being currently based in Atlanta has also added an additional layer to my listening. Tracks like “Stone Mountain,” named after a popular site, is an obvious overlap, but there are also subtle local references. One of those subtleties is, the only feature on the album being with an Atlanta-based rapper, Deanté Hitchcock, an old schoolmate of Belle. Additionally, Atlanta is a bed for cultivating new sound. With tracks like “Colors” pulling its influence brilliantly from reggae, to “Lucid Dreams” seemingly referencing Bruno Mars’ “Marry You,” their genre is complex. They amusingly created their own quirky self-titled genre, “confetti.” This term emphasizes their music as feeling, and not just technicality. It also emphasizes how curated their unique sound is. From Stevie Wonder, to Gladys Knight or Jimi Hendrix, they’ve successfully paired their classic inspirations, with current sound.
Isis’ verse on “Not Discuss It” is one of the most vocally immersive moments on the album. This song might also be a subtle synth reference to the Stevie melody, “Birds of Beauty,” a song that also inspired the band’s name. Their old school influence is not only evident in their style and sound, but their overall approach to creating. Their patience and humility assures me that they’re not interested in being overnight stars, but genuinely intrigued by the process of music-making. This curiosity is often what distinguishes a serious artist, from a superficial one.
The album is a reflection of what happens when vulnerability and artistry collide. Being songwriters to every song, their personality is transferred effortlessly, leaving me listening to a project that feels like time well invested. When I first saw them live in 2016, they had already been working together for four years, solidifying a really strong blend in their sound. Two years later, they have cultivated a harmonic sound that pairs even more beautifully than I once recall. Certainly, they have solidified themselves as artists to watch right now due to their commitment to each other’s sonic growth. This balanced, yet elusive sound they’ve cultivated, might only be possible because they’ve honed a practice space that is both independently fruitful, and collaboratively joyful. ©