By Bradley Barnes
Album: Doom Days
Release Date: June 14, 2019
Record Label: Virgin EMI Records
Since forming in 2010, England’s Bastille have continued to spearhead the revitalized synthpop scene, combining lush electronics with soulful and earnest vocals. Their music is ridiculously catchy, but 2016’s Wild World also showed a socially-conscious side of the band, with some of their most overtly political lyrics to date. If music can be used as a tool to convey a message, the message Bastille seems to going for on Doom Days is it’s okay to unwind, and just try to live in the moment.
“Quarter Past Midnight” starts things off fairly sparsely, with frontman Dan Smith’s vocals accompanied by a simple (but effective) piano piece, easing the listener into what promises to be another anthemic masterpiece of a record. Once the pre-chorus kicks in, the R&B influences which were so prevalent on Wild World really begin to shine through, particularly in Smith’s silky-smooth falsetto. Lyrically, Doom Days is a concept album, chronicling a night spent at a party, and all the chaos and exuberance that can be found at the party. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the negative news and events in the world, sometimes you need to just let loose, and Bastille want to provide the soundtrack for that.
The term “YOLO” seems so overplayed now, but with lyrics like, “If the world is ending, let’s stay up all night” from “Bad Decisions,” throwing caution to the wind and enjoying the moment seems to be Bastille’s call-to-action on Doom Days. There’s a sense of melancholy in the title-track, “Doom Days,” which begins with an acoustic guitar, and layered auto-tuned vocals reminiscent of “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, while Dan Smith laments, “Think I’m addicted to my phone.” Even in this moment of pensivity, though, Smith wants to “run away from real life thoughts tonight,” choosing to focus on enjoying the party and that moment in time.
Sonically, the band continues to expand their palette, with hints of gospel, as can be heard on “Joy,” and a little bit of house mixed-in throughout the course of the album. The tone of this record evokes a sense of nostalgia, which seems like a silly thing to say about a synthpop record in 2019, since that’s kind of the point of synthpop. Smith’s emotive vocals draw attention to the lyrics, all of which paint a vivid picture of a small group of people trying to avoid the perceived horrors of the outside world.
Despite the bittersweet tone of the lyrics, there is almost always a great beat to be had on each track, and I defy you to not bob your head along to each song. There’s a joyful undercurrent on tracks like “Bad Decisions,” “Nocturnal Creatures” and “Million Pieces,” all of which could easily be club hits.
Doom Days feels like a rather timely record, perfectly capturing the need to take a break from the harsh realities of the real world. I think we can all relate to that. The track-listing brilliantly mimics the ebb and flow in energy you’d find at any party, and plays out like a movie, much like the album art suggests. Longtime Bastille fans will certainly find a lot to like here, while newcomers that enjoy artists like The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club, and Empire of the Sun will want to add this into their mix as well. The anthems presented on Doom Days are some of the band’s finest yet, and showcase some artists that are continuing to move forward, honing their craft while broadening their sound.