Album review: St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ ‘Sea of Noise’


Three and a half stars

St. Paul and the Broken Bones Sea of Noise

Amazingly, the new album by St. Paul and the Broken Bones—the Birmingham, Alabama-based R&B outfit whose live show is like a tent revival making sweet love to a speeding train—opens with an ambient track. The murmuring bed of reverb beneath “Crumbling Light Posts” could have been made by Brian Eno, and Paul Janeway’s vocal—“We’re just crumbling light posts/In a sea of noise”—skews ethereal. It’s just one step forward in a trek that finds the Bones covering lots of new ground.

Musically, the band has never sounded tighter. “Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like)” bounces along with the funky abandon that makes the concerts a joy. And St. Paul takes fuller advantage of the studio than it did on its debut: the horns have more punch, and some songs even boast a string section. This new approach swells to ripeness on “I’ll Be Your Woman” and “Brain Matter,” two gorgeous pieces of honestly felt soul.

Underneath that luxe finish, however, are open wounds. “That’s my daddy with a gun shooting someone else’s son,” Janeway sings in “Brain Matter”—a sadly familiar refrain. Several other songs on Sea of Noise allude to gun violence, and just in case we miss the point, the record ends with a reprise of “Crumbling Light Posts.” St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ party might continue apace, but now, there’s some introspection in the mix.

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