St. Paul & The Broken Bones, which we named one of the Next Big Things of 2014, delivers on its promise with the uplifting, gospel-injected R&B of its debut album Half the City. Led by howling tenor Paul Janeway, the Birmingham, Alabama-based sextet is boosted by its snare-tight rhythm section and malleable two-man brass band. Much of their retro-soul influence stems from Janeway’s childhood growing up in a non-denominational, Pentecostal-leaning church. But Half the City expands on these influences, swaying from John Coltrane-esque jazz on “Don’t Mean a Thing” to the James Brown funk of “Call Me.” Its highpoints, the back-to-back swinging “Sugar Dyed” and blues guitar-driven “Half the City,” capture the band’s incandescent energy at their most soulful and cohesive.
The LP saunters along at a slower pace than the three powerhouse barnburners on their 2012 EP, Greetings from St. Paul & The Broken Bones. The lower temperature gives a chance for Janeway’s stellar vocals to shine, but an end-to-end danceable sophomore effort would definitely be welcome.