Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The settings are studied and potent: 'Midnight on the Earth' conjures Sly Stone funk with a soaring brass finale."
Paste (magazine) - "St. Paul & The Broken Bones use their effusive, ecstatic revelry to rouse their audiences and encourage them to get caught up in a kind of aural delirium. That's apparent on giddier numbers like 'Midnight on the Earth' and 'Brain Matter'..."
Personnel: Yennifer Correia, Jessie Munson (violin); Jennifer Puckett (viola); Jonathan Kirkscey (cello).
Audio Mixers: Alex Aldi; Paul Butler.
Recording information: Sam Phillips Recording Service; Sound Emporium, Nashville, TN; Studio A, Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Since their breakthrough debut, Half the City, brass-reinforced retro-soul ensemble St. Paul & the Broken Bones grew to an eight-piece with the addition of a keyboardist and a woodwinds specialist, and signed with a new label (RECORDS). They also looked to somewhat reel in lead singer Paul Janeway's emphatic soul delivery. Not that there was any technical fault to be found with his impassioned performances on Half the City, but having been quite new to professional singing at the time it was recorded -- live in the studio, with the pressure on -- he soon learned to embrace concepts like balance and nuance. That, combined with songs that draw on more socially conscious inspirations, moves the band's sound from fiery ballads of the '60s toward the What's Going On era, resulting in the notably more pensive Sea of Noise. The arrangements here are still at least as dynamic, however, with not only the expanded lineup, but the addition of a string quartet and choir on some songs. Synths, strings, and the choir are introduced early on the atmospheric -- and contemporary-sounding -- "Crumbling Light Posts." It's a three-part piece that opens, closes, and hits the midway point of the record. It also informs the album's title with the lyrics "We're just crumbling light posts in a sea of noise." The intro leads into the funky "Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like)," whose accented bass, horns, rhythm guitar, organ, and drums contribute to a lively, sophisticated sound more typical of the album. That song's all about heartache and lust, but one of the more socially aware entries, which doubles as one of the more orchestral, follows later in "I'll Be Your Woman." High on musical drama that hangs on the vocal performance, the soulful song challenges gender roles in a twist on style standards, with lyrics like "let me lay in your strong arms." Later, Janeway does his best Sam Cooke (and it's a good one) on "Burning Rome," a song he described as a hypothetical letter to God. On the whole, while its more serious tone may disappoint some fans of Half the City, Sea of Noise's performances are just as tight and as passionate, and even more impressive in their maturity and scope. ~ Marcy Donelson