Over the course of the past two years, London band Bastille have released a number singles and two mixtapes, in a calculated lead up to the release of their debut album, ‘Bad Blood‘. Originally a solo project of front man by Dan Smith, the band play what can only be described as ‘pure 21st century pop’. Where many artists who use electronica and sample elements rely on them too much, Smith & Co. have subtly brought their songwriting and vocal strength to the fore to produce radio friendly tracks which are a million miles away from the overproduced manufactured pap of today.
Kicking off the album is the current single Pompeii. Layers of vocals open the track before stripping back to Smith’s voice leading to an explosion of vocals, instrumentation and percussion lines run around your head like a prized fighter. Alongside this title, it’s seems the writer maybe influenced by history and myth with names like Daniel In The Den and Icarus; the latter having an Renaissance style a capella intro. Wherever it is Smith gets his inspiration from, it works and throughout he shows he has cleverly developed an accessible, storytelling style.
Bastille have carved out their own sound, fuelled by the vocals and harmony lines but the instrumentation hasn’t been neglected. Throughout the album clever arrangements bring different instruments to the fore: strings on Things we lost in the Fire and old analogue synth sounds on The Weight of Living. The wall of sound created gives your ears a little party in your headphones.
With the singles, Pompeii, Flaws , Overjoyed and the title track Bad Blood, the album instantly packs punch and the majority is seriously danceable. Oblivion, though, gives a chance to show a more tender side to Bastille and, without overpowering, it reaches the high notes with believable vulnerability. It is a definite contender for a future single. Indeed, the same could be said for Icarus or Laura Palmer, a positively dramatic song which rises and falls before coming to an orchestrated conclusion. Coincidently, Smith originally self released these two songs in 2011. Get Home closes the album with beautifully understated production that lets the vocal lines float over a subtle drum beat and keys.
Bastille have achieved quite a feat with this debut. They have produced a quality collection of songs with memorable hooks and refrains, and incorporated classic production techniques to bring the out the best in each track. They’ve also shown us good songwriting shines though. Bastille have produced a classic pop album for a new generation.