Bastille releases existential fast-life concept album ‘Doom Days’

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

British indie-rock quartet Bastille is back on the scene with Doom Days, a gospel-influenced take on partying and the mixed emotions that can come after it. While many of the songs possess similar production styles that can blend together, the overall narrative of the album connects each song into a seamless collective.

The first track on the album, “Quarter Past Midnight,” was released last year as the first tease of the new record. The song reflects much of the original style fans grew to love on Bastille’s first album, Bad Blood. With dynamic variations in tempo and indie-electronic production, the band clearly hasn’t strayed far from what it’s already mastered.

Many early 2010s indie alternative artists of a similar style, such as Vampire Weekend and WALK THE MOON, have also been coming back with new — but still familiar — music to revive the once-beloved East Coast indie kid aesthetic. Serving Hamptons harmonies and smooth vocals, Doom Days is a promising start to Bastille’s return to earth.

And this reappearance can be heard clearly on “The Waves,” a rolling tune about getting carried away over a night and “caught up in the waves,” as the lyrics say. Low synth sounds cloud the background instrumentals of the song, almost creeping into British indie house territory during instrumental transitions.

However, it wouldn’t be a Bastille album without a slow-moving piano ballad. This is where “Divide” comes in, showcasing the controlled power in lead singer Dan Smith’s voice. As the build speeds up into the chorus, the power drive of the drums brings the low-range tune into a more upbeat realm, keeping listeners engaged with the varying force of the instruments.

“Million Pieces” is the biggest diversion from a traditional Bastille sound. While it definitely still carries the cadence commonly found on the band’s releases, this song is filled with more EDM-centered breakdowns and bubbly production. Doom Days goes full force with this genre bend on several tracks. Past Bastille songs have touched on the electronic tone, but the group has never committed quite this heavily to the upbeat dance tone.

The album takes a turn with the song “Doom Days,” which touches on heavier subjects such as climate change and religion, with a more eerie central feeling in the instrumental breaks. The low echoes and existential themes come together in a short tale of modern crises that is just over two minutes long.

“4AM” may be the most sonically interesting song on the album, starting off with soft guitar picking while adding heaven-esque choral humming into the mix. The comfy background to the vocals supports Smith’s narrative, which follows someone’s reality check surrounded by friends after a night of fast living.

This feeling is reflected onto the album art for Doom Days, which shows a slew of people strewn across the corner of a bed after what appears to have been a full night out. Presented like a movie poster, the cover reinforces the cohesiveness of the overall concept as one story for listeners to follow. Because of the straightforward narrative of the album, it’s definitely best to listen to the tracks in order on the first go-around.

“Another Place” is the closest on the album to a traditional love song, but it settles for a one-night stand. Following questions of “In another time, what could we have been?” the song brings conflicting feelings to the surface, mixing a tune of longing with a midtempo dance feel to display the complexity between the lines.

The overarching story unfolds and wraps up on the last track of the album, “Joy.” Waking up on the kitchen floor at the end of it all becomes worth it when receiving just one call from that special someone. As the song implies, that someone isn’t necessarily a romantic connection, but rather the person who knows just how to pick you back up when you’re down.

The album finishes out the night of debauchery on a positive note, leaving listeners meditating on some of their own experiences, which they may have found from song to song. Doom Days chases the nostalgia of losing track of time, reflection, confession, the “good times, bad decisions.”

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.