Welcome to plz RT’s first #MusicMonday! This where we’ll discuss anything and everything involving music, whether it is a band, album, video…you get the point. This week we’re featuring British band, Bastille, and their debut album Bad Blood.
Bad Blood just had its US release date on September 3, 2013 and has already cracked the top 5 on the iTunes charts. While I’ve “had” this album for a few months now (its original UK release was back in March), I find myself coming back to it again and again.
Here’s a little history lesson on the band before we delve deep into the ins and outs of the album. Bastille was originally supposed to be a solo project for lead singer, Dan Smith (whose birth date lends itself to the band’s namesake). However, he decided to form a band and recruited friends Chris “Woody” Wood (drums) and Chris Farquarson (guitar/bass) at first and then Kyle Simmons (keyboards) was added later. In 2010, they released a double EP of covers that they were never able to release properly (copyrights or something) but Dan encourages everyone to find it somewhere on the internet. In the past few years, they’ve gained immense popularity quickly via creating their own unique sound and posting their own videos on YouTube. They’ve since toured with Muse and countless festivals across the UK and Europe. This fall, they’re doing first (albeit small) US tour and then will be heading over to South Africa at the beginning of next year.
Now back to Bad Blood.
There are multiple reasons to fall in love with Bastille. The initial and obvious one is Dan Smith’s unique and extremely haunting voice. For someone whose songs have absolutely no personal reflection, he fills each lyric with intensity and melancholy over upbeat, piano pop music. Not only does Dan have one those voices and that immediately jolt your soul, Woody, Chris and Kyle all contribute with beautiful harmonies that compliment Dan’s uniqueness without distracting from it or feeling misplaced. Also, shout out to Kyle’s incredible bass voice, which can be heard prominently in the album’s title track, “Bad Blood”.
Another thing that sets Bastille apart is something that I wasn’t even aware until I saw them live and that is percussion. While they do have a guitarist in the band, their sound is predominately piano and percussion based. Dan, Kyle, and Chris share keyboard duties and Dan, Kyle, and Woody split the percussion between them for most of the songs. The reason for the lack of guitar is simple: Dan can’t play it and therefore doesn’t really account for it while writing. Making the drums and piano the focus of their sound adds to both their dancey pop vibe and their downhearted melodies. Plus, it makes their live shows something to be experienced…multiple times.
The beauty of their debut album, Bad Blood, is that while all the songs operate in a very typical and safe versus-chorus-verse structure that is pop music, each song is turned up to its maximum capacity. Each song has a capability of being that powerful opening number as well as that scream inducing closing number. Dan (a gigantic cinephile) has said his songwriting process is similar to screenwriting. He takes a narrative and builds around that until it becomes a song. Because of this approach, it brings a very cinematic feeling to every song, which is where the epicness comes from.
I’ve read a few articles defining Bastille as “apocalyptic pop,” which is strangely accurate. With songs like “Pompeii” describing the events of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to “Icarus” which is well, talking about the story of “Icarus” to “Laura Palmer” based off the doomed character in Twin Peaks, Bastille likes to delve into destructive stories. Or you know, just really freaking sad ones. But they’re set to catchy drumbeats that you can happily tap your steering wheel to. I really love the direction pop music is taking. Having lyrics that tell a story of serious and adult topics and placing it over “typical” pop melodies shows that not all pop music doesn’t have to vapid and shallow and all about partying (though those will always be welcomed).
The truly special trait of Bastille is that while their highly produced studio songs are energetic and epic and grand, even when you strip all of that away, they’re still able to generate magic. Their acoustic performances are where they really shine for me. You see how in tuned they are with each other as a band and how individually talented they all are. There’s a synergy between the four of them that can’t be replicated and mesmerizing to watch unfold. They’re really something to marvel at.
Stand out tracks: “Pompeii”, “Overjoyed”, “Oblivion”, “These Streets”