St. Paul and the Broken Bones know how to bring it. I saw them earlier in the year when they toured on Bluesfest, and their Sydney sideshow was just one of those sets you had to see to fully understand and appreciate. For a band to play such a polished set, you could easily think they’d released a back catalogue ten albums deep. In reality, when I saw them, they’d only released one album and were prepping to release their second, the fantastically sassy Sea of Noise.
The first thing you notice about Sea of Noise is the polish all the tracks have, so much so, that it leaves the production quality of their debut Half The City well in its wake. It’s clean, but not to the point that you feel the band have overdone it and ruined any authenticity that should be created by a live band.
Secondly, the sass. There’s a heap here on Sea of Noise. With the vocals of front man Paul Janeway once again being the key to piecing together the jazz and soul sound of The Broken Bones, you’d be forgiven in thinking Beyonce had died and been reincarnated as a white male from Alabama. In addition to the Janeway sass, the instrumentation has a real jive and strut to its groove. A prime example here is the opening and continuous riff on “Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like)” and the gospel-chanting refrain throughout “Midnight on Earth”.
“All I Ever Wonder” is an early and clear stand out from Sea of Noise with a cantering verse before the otherworldly chorus and vocals of Janeway take control. The track is potentially a track of self-doubt with the chorus of, ‘I can’t tell which side I’m on/ I can’t tell what’s right or wrong’; but you’d hardly be able to tell of its indecisiveness with the closing minute being absolutely joyous and bloody beautiful.
A personal favourite and clear frontrunner for the best 2016 song about precious gems, “Tears In The Diamond” is a cruisy track backed by organ, brass and a real blues guitar vibe. Once more, as the track builds over the closing minute you’re taken to another world where you’re asked to ‘Let it go’. Whatever you say St. Paul; I’ll spread your gospel.
Helping close out the LP is the thoughtful and earnest “Is It Me”, where you can fully appreciate the strength of the vocals as the track is backed with minimal instrumentation. “La Bruit” is an excellent track to close out Sea of Noise as it’s the most distinctly different of the album tracks. Its intensity, structure, and willingness to allow band members to do their thing is what makes “La Bruit” a near certainty to go off in a live setting.
Sea of Noise is by no means a flawless album, but where the strengths (and sass) clearly outweigh the weaknesses, you’re more than happy to overlook any perceived issues. Sea of Noise is a mature step for a band that brings much of their inspiration from an era that plenty of modern Hip Hop, R&B and Soul has a heap to say thanks to. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out live.
Review Score: 7.7 out of 10.
Sea of Noise is out now.