The twenty-first century neo-soul revival has been great, but as with any revival, the question lingers as to whether it’s more than just a revival. Old sounds can be built into something new, like disco becoming EDM, or just be a flash in the pan, like that weird period when people were into sea shanties. Thankfully, Alabama’s St. Paul & The Broken Bones have been pushing the limits of the genre, never more so than with The Alien Coast.
While 2018’s Young Sick Camelia (QRO review) saw them step a bit outside of their comfort zone, it was still pretty much a soul revival record. Alien goes further, like the disco elements of instrumental “Atlas” and great soul-disco mix on the following “Last Dance”. There are also darker moments at the start of the release, with the big opener “3000 AD Mass” and the slyer “Bermejo And The Devil”. Not all works as well, such as the more teched “Tin Man Love”, but St. Paul & The Broken Bones also don’t forget who brought them to the dance, like with the great traditional smooth soul finish, “Love Letter From a Red Roof Inn”.
Alien Coast might ruffle the feathers of those who want their contemporary soul music exactly like it was done back in Motown, but it’s a strong evolution of today’s neo-soul for tomorrow.