Thursday, August 17, 2023

Album Review: St. Paul and the Broken Bones - Angels In Science Fiction

St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Angels In Science Fiction
*** out of *****

The fifth full length album from St. Paul and the Broken Bones was inspired by the impending fatherhood of front man Paul Janeway as lyrics speak directly to a child. The Birmingham, Alabama based outfit deliver their sounds with a mix of hope and fear as Angels In Science Fiction flows out around excellent production from Matt Ross-Spang (Jason IsbellMargo Price)

Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, Tennessee the band continues their move away from the retro soul of their debut and luxuriate in any sounds possible, expanding things, while also moving more to the middle of the road. There is no doubting Janeway's passion in falsetto vocals, but musically the band can come off as bland at times this go around.   

Bookended with the piano ballads to his unborn daughter Janeway sets the scene and dominates as his vocals rise and soften with theatrical touches and flair. Both opener "Chelsea" and closer "Marigold" are simple odes to a child with strings and ivories twinkling. Things pick up on the funky swelling of "City Federal Building" as the orchestration swells and the thick, rich bass keeps things bumping. 

The funky drumming and keys highlight "Sea Star" and "Wolf In Rabbit Clothes" has a distorted disco feel that works incredibly well, but the highlight of the album is "Magnolia Trees". The falsetto singing and slow soul, lead to a triumphant break through as Janeway jubilantly sings ""It won't last, but today I feel like a warm breeze through the magnolia trees". This joyous tune is the peak for the band on Angels In Science Fiction

Outside of these efforts, things feel a bit restrained. The acoustic ditty "Lonely Love Song", the warbling guitar of the sparse "South Dakota" and the out of place ominous strings of "Heat Lighting" are all fairly forgettable. The orchestration gets overdone on the building title track and "Easter Bunny" is a rising pop song that could use a bit of a freak-out. All of these efforts are fine, but never hit home as particularly memorable. 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones has been moving in this direction for a few albums now, starting with the excellent Sea of Noise and continuing with the strong Young Sick Camellia and the scattered The Alien CoastAngels In Science Fiction turns out to be the least adventurous musically, but perhaps the most emotional lyrically as Janeway in particular has found inspiration with new life.    
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:


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