Sea of Noise, the second full-length album by St. Paul and the Broken Bones, marks a quantum leap in sound and style for the high-voltage Birmingham, Alabama-based band. Produced by Paul Butler and recorded at Nashville's Sound Emporium, the group's sophomore effort features an expanded eight-piece lineup of the widely praised soul-based rock unit. Longtime members Paul Janeway (lead vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass, guitar), Browan Lollar (guitars), Andrew Lee (drums), Al Gamble (keyboards), and Allen Branstetter (trumpet) are joined by Jason Mingledorff (saxophone, clarinet, flute), and Chad Fisher (trombone).
Sea of Noise is a successor to the Broken Bones' 2013 debut album Half the City, which introduced the group's blazing mating of ‘60s soul fire – daubed with latter-day influences like Sly Stone, David Bowie, and Prince - to Janeway's impassioned singing and writing. The new album witnesses a deepening and broadening of the unit's musical reach and lyrical concerns. Looking to such inspirations as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Janeway was intent on lifting his game as a songwriter on material for the second album.
On Sea of Noise, the band's brawny horn-driven sound is also augmented – and displaced - by the use of a string quartet and a vocal choir. The strings – recorded at Memphis' historic Sam Phillips Recording by engineer Jeff Powell – were arranged by Lester Snell, a veteran of Stax Records sessions by Isaac Hayes, Shirley Brown, Albert King, and the Staple Singers, among many others. Employed on "Crumbling Light Posts," the recurring motif that appears three times on the album, Jason Clark and the Tennessee Mass Choir were recorded in another legendary Memphis facility. "The Stax Museum let us go in there after hours and record the choir," Janeway says. "We said, ‘Well, hell, we're in Memphis, let's just see if they'll do it.' It was pretty neat, I'm not gonna lie."