Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Album Review: St. Paul & The Broken Bones- Sea Of Noise

St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Sea Of Noise
**** out of *****
On St. Paul & The Broken Bones first release, 2014's Half The City, the outfit proved they were a band on the rise in the retro-soul world. There are many of those same elements present on Sea Of Noise, but the band feels more refined, more experimental and more willing to leave that soul singer word they inhabit to shine even brighter and fuller.

When we reviewed Half The City, the clear parallel to draw was to The Alabama Shakes. Both bands were finding their feet behind super dynamic front men/women. It was on the power of those vocal pipes that the bands managed to break through the so called sea of noise to national attention. Both bands now have followed the same path on their second releases. On Sound & Color The Shakes channeled Prince and flights of cosmic soul, moving from their rural roots. SP&TBB have done the same sort of shift, expanding their pallet with Jazz, Funk, and Blackplotation Soundtrack grooves.

It should be stated here, both succeeded wildly. While neither would be faulted for sticking to what they do best, the step-out-of-the-norm has been a pure pleasure to hear.  

On Sea Of Noise there is a clear confidence to the bands playing, fluid and dynamic as they not only support Paul Janeway's soul singing they ebb and flow around it creating expansive soundscapes. The horns blare and the drums groove as the tracks come out. "Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like)" exudes that new found glory as the band clicks on all levels with congas, funk and soul. While not leaving old fans behind, but possibly pulling in new ones "Burning Rome" and "Tears In The Diamond" nail that tried and true retro soul sweet spot for the band.

Deep electric guitars pair nicely with organs and horns for the smooth flowing "Waves" while "Brain Matter" incorporates strings but also a sense of upbeat dancing, clearly recalling late 70's soul/funk. The easy rolling "Sanctify" and "Midnight on Earth" play to the outfits strengths, the former swells with the most dramatic instrumentation on the disk and that, along with Janeway's singing, pulls it off in an Al Green way.

The albums professional singing and playing are all a step above, however the lyrics don't always live up to the songs surroundings. Janeway is a confident singer but still finding his lyrical way, "I'll Be Your Woman" plays with gender roles, but comes off muddled. When the lyrics work they elevate the performance, most notably the troubled "All I Ever Wonder". It channels racial issues in classic soul dramatic ways (think a lesser version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On") before a massive chorus wondering what side the singers on, personal yet worldly and a perfect track for this, or any time in American culture.

While the album is long and could be edited some (the "Crumbling Lights" exercises feel excessive), it is also confidently moving up the ladder of success, St. Paul & The Broken Bones are expertly navigating the Sea Of Noise.
Hell of a second release from this band. Support them, buy the album, peep some video:

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