‘Angels In Science Fiction’ is the enigmatic title of the equally enigmatic sounding new album from Alabama’s ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES. The collective have been active since 2011 but it was their 2014 album ‘Half The City’ which created a cult following amongst savvy music collectors who found it hard to pin down the band’s sound… retro soul, funk, country , psychedelia, orchestral elements, cinema noire and more were all in the mix and that unpredictable cocktail made the band more attractive to those who like their music a little different. Did we just mention the word “enigmatic”?
‘Angels In Science Fiction’ wins official release this Friday, 21st April and it won’t disappoint those who’ve already discovered the Broken Bones. The album was flagged up last month by the single, ‘Lonely Love Song’. It was/is a simple, folksy tune allowing singer and bandleader Paul Janeway to show off his unique, emotive voice on a lyric that reminds us that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”.
‘Lonely Love Song’ is possibly the simplest song on the 12 tracker which, we’re told, was written quickly, just in the span of a few weeks. The genesis of the album stems from Janeway’s delight at learning that his wife was pregnant and he therefore conceived the album as a series of letters to his then-unborn daughter. Academics amongst you might know that that writing style has been used by people as varied as Aristotle, William James and John Steinbeck. Thus Janeway says: “A few people told me it would be a good idea to write letters to my yet to be born daughter before she arrived into the world. That is what ‘Angels In Science Fiction is. Themes throughout the album are faith, nature vs nurture, anxiety and beauty. This is a record I would have written whether I did this for a living or not. I don’t know if those records come along all the time.”
So, as ‘Angels In Science Fiction’ was conceived as a sort of concept album, it’s difficult to cherry pick songs – each track is meant to link to the message that follows – and song titles like ‘Oporto-Madrid Boulevard’, ‘City Federal Building’ and indeed the album title track will tell you that this isn’t an easy listen. The songs are complex and nuanced , drawing inspiration from varied sources but given a unity by Janeway’s idiosyncratic vocals and the band’s commitment to their art.
Anoraks might want to know that the band’s current line-up is Jesse Phillips (bass), Browan Lollar (guitar), Kevin Leon (drums), Al Gamble (keyboards), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), Chad Fisher (trombone), and Amari Ansari (saxophone) with, of course, Paul Janeway on vocals. Another anorak fact – like the band’s critically acclaimed 2022 album, ‘The Alien Coast’, ‘Angels In Science Fiction’ was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, Tennessee and was produced by Matt Ross-Spang (who’s worked with Jason Isbell, John Prine, Elvis Presley). Oh, and you might want to know that Mrs Janeway safely delivered a baby girl, Marigold. When she grows up we wonder what she’ll make of these “letters” to her unborn self?
St. Paul & The Broken Bones; ‘Angels In Science Fiction’ released on 21st April on ATO Records.