For the funk-ers and disco survivors
Young Sick Camellia is the third album from St. Paul & the Broken Bones and was released on September 7th by Sony Music. The album was produced by Jack Splash, a newcomer for the group who has previously worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. Splash’s influence is subtly heard on Young Sick Camellia as the Birmingham, Alabama-based soul band tries to expand their sound beyond the genre of rhythmic soul with a touch of funk.
The album features several conversations between lead singer Paul Janeway and his grandfather to give the album a family connection. While there is little more than simple instrumentation in these tracks beyond the occasional piano or flute melody, the simple conversations and sentences heard in the interludes of “Cumulus pt. 1,” “Mature pt. 2” and “Dissipating pt. 3” give the album a more personal touch and real-life grounding.
The name of the album is drawn from the state flower of Alabama and a Caravaggio painting, Young Sick Bacchus. Janeway told Garden and Gun “…I chose a camellia to represent a few things: home, me, the balance of it all.” Janeway goes onto say that “the idea is that this album represents me.”
Above all, the signature funk you can expect from St. Paul & the Broken Bones is here. But now, there seems to be an extra helping of not just funk, but disco as well. “GotItBad” delivers an infectiously funky beat with a heavy disco influence that is straight out of 1979. You have a prominent rhythm and blues horn section, a nice bit of heavy wah-wah effects and warm, pleasant background vocals.
“NASA” immediately follows the party anthem of “GotItBad.” Pardon the pun, but “NASA” is a super spacy song. There’s something of a dueling melody in here between the guitars and the keyboards that is really likable on this track. Speaking of the guitars, there’s a really nice breakdown in the second half of the song where the guitars overlap, playing the same melody, that sounds incredible. Overall, It’s a nice bopper and head-nodder of a song. “Apollo” brings back the funk with an infectious clapping rhythm and some awe-inspiring organ chords that create a nice, spacy, funky bridge between the two previous songs.
Elsewhere, “Hurricanes” takes the album on a somber turn. There’s little to no funkiness to this song, and it comes off as a really atmospheric exploration behind the strength of Janeway’s voice. “Bruised Fruit” is another slow one, this time being built around a piano melody and subtle orchestration. With an impassioned force belting out “You’re in me when I leave alone / Till the lights go out some day,” “Bruised Fruit” ends the album on a grand, majestic scale.
Janeway’s voice still stands out magnificently on this album, and as a whole, the album sounds like there’s a disco ball rolling above your head from front-to-back. Songs that are sure to stick in the listener’s head are “GotItBad” and “Apollo.” If you’re hungry for another helping of southern retro-soul, Young Sick Camellia may be just what you need.