Nights In

St. paul and the broken bones: half the city review

When a seven piece soul band from Birmingham, Alabama records their first EP without ever playing a live show together, you have to wonder what they were thinking. Smart seems to be the answer. 
 
St. Paul and the Broken Bones have exploded on to the scene in the last three years. After their first EP, Greetings from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, received widespread critical acclaim in the States their 2014 debut album, Half the City has taken them all over the world.
 
The album kicks off with the gentle warm up track, I’m Torn Up but it heats up quicker than you’d expect. From gentle brass lines to the stronger ending with a bulk of drums and more blaring brass, the album has already caught your curiosity. 
 
With frontman Paul Janeway’s sublime and gravel filled voice pelting out lyrics like love letters, it soon has your interest as well. 
 
The band’s southern influences can be heard throughout the recordings with the trombone and trumpet so prominent in every track. The second track, Don’t Mean a Thing, is the best example of this. The drums and the gold metal hook up perfectly to spring the chorus for this track into a lively double time jam that would sound right at home in a Mardi Gras parade.
 
One thing that is undeniably present in every one of the 12 tracks on this album is the groove. Everything sits so well together. The harmony existing between each instrument and the vocals – which are so powerfully delivered by Janeway – tells not only of a high level of musicianship, but also of passion. 
 
Every note sounds like its being played with the utmost care and heart. Listening to the song “Like a Mighty River” with its short bridge section after the section chorus highlights this groove I speak of. 
 
A warm, clean guitar tone and minimal lyrics keep the listener’s attention. A funky drum beat starts the head nodding and you’re hooked on the rest of this record. A howl of lyric pulls you back in to the ending of the song and you nod your head even harder. 
 
The line “we’re just trying to work it through” is almost a metaphor for the feel of the song and the groove the band epitomises.  
 
At times a melancholic metaphor comes over the album, particularly on the track “Broken Bones and Pocket Change”. There’s a blues influence on this track which is heard most obviously in the vocal stylings echoing the sound of South Blues of the past. 
 
But this band isn’t just about making you feel like you’re standing out in the rain. The title track for the album holds you in the pocket of the groove so snugly you warm right up again. It’s more upbeat than the majority of the other songs but as hard a hitter as the eternally catchy “Call Me” heard earlier. 
 
St. Paul and the Broken Bones are certainly one of the most unique acts to come out of the US in recent years and with a debut as strong as this one, it’s safe to say they’ll be back again. 
 
With tour dates in Europe and America coming up over the summer they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
 
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