By: The Busted Amp Staff
DEREK: The indie neo-soul movement, filled with crooners attempting to capture the essence of years past, certainly has its winners and losers. Artists like Leon Bridges and Anderson East have successfully created authentic sounding indie soul, whereas artists like Fitz & the Tantrums have turned their backs on soul in favor of a more popular poppy sound. Luckily for us, St. Paul & The Broken Bones falls into the first category. Coming off their solid full length debut Half The City, the band returns with an ambitious, fuller sounding sophomore release that doesn't sacrifice anything in terms of the soulful identity, yet gains a more pronounced, mature sound.
The album is divided into three sections, with each separated by an interlude titled "Crumbling Light Posts" parts 1, 2, and 3. With the opening interlude, it's immediately apparent that the listener has a much different adventure awaiting them than what was on their debut. Swelling and expansive, I pictured braving a storm on the Sea of Noise and coming through to calm, serene waters on the other side. This simple clarity sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is more focused, better produced, and features performances, especially those by lead singer Paul Janeway, that are honest, heartfelt, and passionate.
"Midnight on the Earth" brings a surprising dosage of funk to the record that plateaus with a rousing horn finale. Janeway's falsetto is a highlight here and something that he hasn't showcased much outside of overdubbed backing vocals. Lead single "All I Ever Wonder" is probably the best song that the band has produced up to this point. The driving chorus "I can't tell what side I'm on / I can't tell what's right or wrong / We ain't ever gonna sing one song / Love goes hate goes now I'm all alone" is the high point of the album.
While this album is noticeably more up tempo compared to their debut. "Burning Rome" is restrained and lets Janeway's vocals shine through with subtle horns and keys guiding the melody. Hold your love ones close for this one, folks, because this is the perfect slow dancing song.
Overall, SP&BB showed more growth than I expected and produced a fantastic neo-soul record. Take note Fitz, it can be done!
Derek's Number: 7.5/10
JOSEPH: Many artists go through a sophomore slump. This is nothing new. However one band that does not suffer from this is St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Delivering one of my current favorite albums of the year, (Sturgill Simpson finally has company) St. Paul takes us through a listening experience here in Sea of Noise. As much as I love a good single, I can equally dig an album that completely lacks any standout tracks. St. Paul and the Broken Bones chose to focus on the album experience as a whole, and it leads to a great listening experience.
Now that's not to say this album doesn't have some stand out tracks. Derek already talked about the highlight in "All I Ever Wanted," but I will also mention "Brain Matter." Frontman "Saint" Paul Janeway has some wonderful vocal cues throughout this song, and the instrumentation is extremely catchy. This song screams to be selected for a scene in a movie involving a romantic dinner or something, because it oozes class. Additionally, I really loved the "Crumbling Light Posts" interludes. Those interludes were outstanding and did a phenomenal job job in adding to the overall listening experience of this LP. X Ambassadors, I hope you're listening to this because St. Paul and the Broken Bones just put on a clinic for what to do in album coherency. One thing is for sure: I cannot wait to hear this album done live, and honestly that's about as high a praise as I can offer.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.