My job, my mission statement, my calling is to catch 'em all showcase all the musical talent in the world and find cool ways to write about it; it's how I pay for all my burritos. Still, it's not always so cut and dry. Sometimes, a song is too old to share---we can't claim to be breaking new music if our features are eight months old. And sometimes its so far outside of DJBooth's lane that Z would slap me silly for wasting his time.
It's like the rap game Goldilocks; the porridge has to be just right.
Well, my favorite porridge of 2014, the one that I played more and longer than any other album, wasn't "just right." It's not rap, it came out in February (and it took until April for me to find), I missed them live three times, and did I mention it's definitely not rap? Normally, when this happens, I'll sit on it and wait until they release something new, but normally bands aren't this special. This band may not have made it into the DJBooth Awards, hell, they didn't even have a feature in 2014, but St. Paul & The Broken Bones had the album of the year and, quite frankly, it's not even close. You need to listen to Half The City.
While I seem to say that each "Meet" is my favorite of the year, rarely do they actually end up in the running. Typically, I listen religiously for a few days or weeks then I go right back to my all hip-hop diet; aside from being "different" there isn't enough to keep me. This couldn't be further from truth with St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Since discovering them back in April, the whole album has been on steady rotation. Sure, I don't listen to the whole thing cover to cover everyday, but there hasn't been a road trip playlist, hungover Sunday, party, or even a workout, where I haven't enjoyed their music. Yet each listen feels like the first.
A large reason why is the lead singer Paul Janeway. Though Half The City is largely a heart-break centered album (see "Half The City" or "Broken Bones & Pocket Change") Janeway's vocals give it so much more body. Sure his voice captures that heart-broken, despondent, feeling we all know all to well, but to me what separates it from that same sorry old song is the power in his voice and fire in his belly. The passion in his voice captures the loneliness perfectly, but it gives a vibrant, almost hopeful vibe that separates SP&BB from the pack. Rarely can break-up albums serve the purpose of a break-up album so perfectly yet also fit just about any other mood.
To me at least, soul is timeless: Mayfield, Redding, Brown, all those guys are still loved today, because there is a special quality in their voices, something that makes it just as powerful 40 years ago as it is today. Janeway isn't the only special part of the group, and it's way, way way, way, way to soon to compare him to say, James Brown, but he does have a similar ability to cut through all the noise and get right to your soul each and every time he opens his mouth regardless of circumstances and variables. Whether it's your 4th or your 400th listen, Janeway commands your attention with each and every note.
Now, Janeway is the quarterback, the face of the squad, but he ain't the only thing that makes this band special. The instrumentals, from the Broken Bones, are outstanding. This year I have developed a love for instrumentals that really progress and develop. A song may start one way, but by the end, sound totally different and you didn't even realize. When a song ebbs and flows, it gives it a much more dense, significant feeling--not to mention its so much more fun--and boy to the instrumentals on this album ebb and flow. My favorite is by far "Like A Mighty River." Janeway is the highlight for much of the track, engined the effort with his charisma, but the end, the last minute, is the most compelling part of the album it's driven by the instrumental. Sure, Janeway still shines, but to me, it's the instrumental that allows him to really flex his muscles. The build up, the arrangement sets him up perfectly to bring it all home. It's like the offensive line of a football team; do you think Peyton manning could throw 500 touchdowns if his lineman weren't doing their job? You think Janeway could blow you away without the Broken Bones' incredible canvas? They are just as crucial to that vibrant-yet heart broken sound as St. Paul's preaching and together, the form one of the most incredible, awe-inspiring, and down right fucking fun, experiences of the year.
Now, both on the internet and in real life, I suggest a ton of music. I like to think of myself as a real life Pandora. If you give me two or three things you like, I'll give you a few artist to check out who I think you'll dig. Well, this year, I have suggested St. Paul & The Broken Bones to everyone and anyone from my cousin who has two kids, to the really awesome Uber drive I had, to my EDM loving pot dealer. Well, everyone but DJBooth Nation.
So that's what this is. No unique spin, no award, no feature, nothing. Just a simple suggestion for the sake of sharing music; I love my job but I love music more, and this is music is too good to worry about features, lanes, or even my burritos.
If you take nothing else from this year, if you remember nothing else I have written about, please please, please...do not leave 2014 without giving the best album of the year a honest to goodness listen!
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]