By Riley Hanna
While St. Paul and the Broken Bones first formed in 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama, their nostalgic sound will take you back to the rise of soul in the ’60s. The band’s lead vocalist, Paul Janeway, has a similar vocal style to “The Godfather of Soul” himself, James Brown, with unique range and power in his voice. Combined with a dazzling horn section, the music of St. Paul and the Broken Bones will simply knock your socks off and will further make you slip on your boogie shoes (assuming you put your socks back on first).
The band’s past albums, “Half the City” and “Sea of Noise,” embody more of a retro sound that is beautiful in its familiarity. However their newest album, “Young Sick Camellia,” is a groundbreaking modern twist on the band’s vintage sound. While this album still maintains the band’s iconic sound, it is notably more experimental than their past two albums, and it works well.
The title of the album is taken from the state flower of Alabama, the camellia. The title symbolizes the band’s love for their home state, while simultaneously acknowledging Alabama’s problematic history and culture.
Furthermore, the album is interspersed with multiple interludes that combine the voice recordings of Janeway’s grandfather, who discusses daily life in Alabama with soft sounds of flutes, guitar, and drums providing a funky, psychedelic ambiance. These interludes add a personal quality to the album by describing how Alabama has impacted and shaped the Janeway family. They also provide the album with a more cohesive structure, as opposed to a mere collection of songs without deeper meaning.
The album encompasses a wide variety of styles. The funkier, upbeat tracks, such as “Convex,” “GotItBad,” “Apollo,” and “LivWithoutU,” are juxtaposed with more soulful ballads like “Hurricanes,” and “Bruised Fruit,” whose lyrics contain darker messages about the hardships that come with growing up in a beautiful but morally corrupt state. Additionally, songs like “NASA” and “Mr. Invisible” are nearly impossible to categorize; they are much more exploratory, dancing on the edge of neo-psychedelia.
The diversity and musicality of the songs coupled with the complex interludes makes “Young Sick Camellia” more than just a fun, groovy album, but a masterpiece.
The band is coming to McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom on Oct. 17, and I would strongly recommend buying tickets, as St Paul and the Broken Bones are a sight to see. I would confidently give this album a 10/10 rating.