Broke Royals – Saint Luxury
The genesis of Broke Royals began in 2014 when Colin Cross and Philip Basnight first began collaborating and their new release Saint Luxury. The band has released an ample amount of material in a little less than five years, but this most recent release ranks as their most ambitious effort yet. Saint Luxury is a throwback in one way if no other – they designed this fourteen song release as a concept album and it succeeds quite well. Songwriting chops need to be on point for such an effort to leave a mark on listeners, but Basnight and Cross are more than up to the challenge and, without question, far surpass their previous fine efforts with concentrated focus and clear skills as mature rock songwriters. This Washington DC band is hitting their peak with this release, but one of the most bracing aspects of the listening experience lies in realizing they will continue growing from this point and the future holds even greater achievements ahead.
Broke Royals place a few instrumental tracks over the duration of the album, never very long, and they serve as “bridge pieces” leading into the next track. It is an indication of the cinematic nature of the album’s conception. Saint Luxury opens with a track like this, “Ave”, and it is an excellent introduction to what follows. Guitars flare to life near its conclusion, but melodic piano and keyboards dominate much of the forty eight second track. The title song comes next. “Saint Luxury” has an airy mid-tempo pace, chiming guitars, and drumming along with vocals syncing up well together. Their talents with a lyric are apparent for newcomers and this first full fledged song is five star invocation of the album’s title character.
The vocal harmonies and melody powering “Bad Chemicals” continues illustrating the big screen ambitions Basnight and Cross pursue on this release. It is a song with plenty of sonic punch, but there is an ethereal cast to the band’s work thus far on the album capable of inspiring many listeners. The lyrics are once again a high point and the vocals strike a melancholic note without ever falling prey to despair. Broke Royals never go in for needless guitar histrionics, but there is some dramatic lead guitar in the second half of the song. “Can’t Say” has a brisk pace and a steady, insistent rhythm section attack following a synth flourish opening the track. The track has a tight composition while still feeling loose and confident.
There is some atmospheric lead guitar built into another uptempo track, “Born to Break”, but they never abandon the melodic gifts bringing them to the dance. There is a smattering of the same penchant for vocal harmonies defining the aforementioned songs, but less than before. Their drumming remains one of the album’s key strengths. “The World Is Ours” rocks out with more of an outright edge than any of the tunes discussed so far and the band is convincing working with a much more rugged sound yet still incorporating their trademark sturdy vocal arrangements and harmony parts.
The penultimate track “God Bless Saint Luxury” blends some of the band’s cinematic inclinations with the rockier sound heard in “The World Is Ours” and keeps things brief and focused with its two minute forty five second running time. Saint Luxury’s final curtain, “This Is Really Happening”, is the album’s longest song at just under four and a half minutes and that fact alone should signal the clarity of the band’s songwriting vision for this release. It has a patient tempo, never getting carried away with the moment, and instead unwinds with a deliberate direction indicating the band understands the importance of closing the release on just the right note. Broke Royals accomplish something a little miraculous with Saint Luxury – their songwriting constructs a substantive musical and narrative statement with straight forward songs engaging the listening, challenging them to think, yet remaining grounded all the while in a musical vocabulary any rock fan will recognize. It is an achievement deserving to be heard far and wide.
Anne Hollister, posted by John McCall