In recent years the UK has had a deluge of successful female solo artists who have rained down radio-friendly music across the pop spectrum. These young women have been so dominant and successful it’s left us wondering if the balance of the sexes can ever be restored. The blogger’s search lights have been looking out for pop’s knight in shining synths to come hurdling over the horizon and today that light has found Bastille, so let’s see if he’s ready to land a hit for the boys.
Bastille is actually solo artist Dan Smith, from South London, who’s earned himself some online buzz since the start of 2011, following the circulation of his homemade video for the track Flaws, which used snippets of the classic Terrence Mallick film Badlands. This unexpectedly led to a batch of Youtube covers by kids in their bedrooms armed with acoustic guitars. If nothing else, it shows how strong Dan’s songwriting is, because if your tune still stands up when stripped of the bells and whistles, and any actual talent, then that has to be a good thing.
Thankfully the bells and whistles are around for the original version of his lead single, Flaws, which takes a basic loving lament and introduces delicate programmed touches to an otherwise simple song. However, the flourishes don’t add any weight, which is only located during the vocal layering that arrives in the middle of the song’s break taking the listener comfortably to it’s conclusion. It’s neat and tidy, but just like Ellie Goulding it proves to be just a little bit too wet.
Thankfully things warm up somewhat on Icarus, with a smoother passage from start to finish. Marching drums give it momentum as his story-telling voice leads from the front. Sadly the voice feels a little bland during the verses, but once styled up for the chorus it finds it’s comfort zone, which is a pattern reminiscent of listening to the mixture of bland and exciting vocals that Wolf Gang also serve up. Again the break at two minutes in has Dan Smith’s singing restricted to an endearing speaking part, and it’s more direct approach works better.
The drama hits Monarchy or perhaps Penguin Prison levels with the track, Laura Palmer. This is the kind of expressive power pop that Duran Duran used to make expensive videos for. We can very much imagine tunes such as this soundtracking those schmaltzy American Teen dramas during the love scenes, which may win you a career in music, but sadly won’t earn many Recommender points. If only he dropped those horrible, generic lyrics, such as “can you feel it?“, which are simply too weak to ever be given the focal point that a chorus gives them, but at least it’s done with energy – as some other parts of his songs sound like Luke Concannon from Nizlopi singing a Frankmusik song. Yuck!
It will be interesting to see how he translates it to a live set, no doubt with a wind machine and a few air grabs during the choruses. You can see for yourself at the Underbelly, in Hoxton, on July 6th, as the launch party for the debut single, Flaws/Icarus, following it’s release that same week on the Young & Lost Club on July 4th. No doubt a batch of hipsters will attend, but they never follow a project for long, however when it reaches it’s natural market place it’s strengths will stand it a good chance. If he can avoid the sugary pop pitfalls and ditch the common blandness, then he has a chance of making it, although in fairness we think the girls are still doing this a lot better. (MB)
BASTILLE – FLAWS
BASTILLE – ICARUS
BASTILLE – LAURA PALMER