Alexe Belle and Isis Valentino met when working at a vintage store in Atlanta and bonded over a shared love of Diana Ross, Sade and Frank Ocean. They began working on music together and soon formed a band, naming themselves after a Stevie Wonder song and performing regularly in the basement of the shop, which had become more like a cultural hub. These shows brought them to the attention of Janelle Monae who signed them to her label Wondaland. Running to the Sun is billed as an EP, although with seven full length songs and some interludes it feels like a complete body of work. It’s a glittering mix of ultra modern RnB beats and sweet neo-Soul which sounds fresh and free.
The band have taken their vintage aesthetic and swirled in electro sounds like we heard on recent albums by Solange and SZA – showing St Beauty understand current trends but aren’t chained to them. The girls have dubbed their musical style as ‘confetti’ – a mix of colours and emotions that are delicate and beautiful.
The intro track ‘For What’ is nothing more than a few guitar strums and the sound of the girls chatting about their lives, giving us a glimpse of their personalities as we enter into their space. The first song Borders is a mellow contemplation about what happens when love has died and you need to escape. It’s smooth soul but the haunting falsetto echoing in the background adds welcome texture to the sound.
Caught shows off the two distinct and vibrant personalities in the band. The video is also exceptionally cool, with kaleidoscopic imagery matching the colourful music. I love the chorus of this song, a kiss off to the cheating guy ‘I’m taking back all my control / everything is alright after I say goodbye.’ These songs are assertions of power, quietly gaining strength from experience.
Tides is about the complexity of surviving a relationship that is as unpredictable as the sea. It also features a great verse from rapper Deante Hitchcock, who went to school with Alexe. Despite nature’s attempt to drag them into the depths, they sing ‘this ship won’t sink’, believing in love to the end.
Stone Mountain is one of my favourite tracks on the EP, about embracing self love and trying not to be hard on yourself when things go wrong. There’s honesty here about feeling ‘inadequate’ and ‘afraid’, struggling with choosing your path in life. However this moment of introspection is purposeful, finishing with a renewed determination ‘I don’t have the time to be wasting / what lies ahead is worth it/ I’m patient.’ Then the mood is lifted further by Colors, with its unusual reggae/dancehall inspired beat. This is an invitation to dance and move your body; a celebration of freedom and unity.
In the video for Not Discuss It, directed by Lacey Duke, the band literally shimmer. Their iridescent beauty also shines through in this song – an ode to loving not fighting. Here they’ve used the ubiquitous 808s but the beats feel natural and organic under their voices. In Lucid Dreams memories of a lost lover start haunting her dreams until they feel real. It’s a glorious ache of a song to finish this blissful collection with.
St Beauty’s musical mission statement is to ‘heal and inspire’ and these songs glow with a warmth that is inviting and intoxicating. Running to the Sun is the light we need right now, a perfect antidote to the winter blues.