British pop group Bastille — made up of Dan Smith, Will Farquarson, Chris “Woody” Wood and Kyle Simmons — has been on a high for the last six years. The group’s debut LP, Bad Blood, in 2013 shattered all expectations after one of the singles, “Pompeii,” peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and made Bastille a household name. The follow-up album, Wild World, replicated the passion emanated on the band’s debut. In 2018, the band collaborated with producer Marshmello on the smash hit “Happier.” With its third full-length, Bastille knew it had to do something phenomenal.
And it did — for the most part.
Since day one, one aspect of Bastille has made it distinguishable from other bands: Smith’s distinct, gorgeous voice. His vocals have the power to transport listeners to dreamy places through its beauty. This doesn’t change on Doom Days, and, in fact, it’s what carries the album.
Each track on the album starts at a certain time of the night (the leading track, “Quarter Past Midnight,” sensibly starts at 00:15 while the closer, “Joy,” starts at 08:34) and signifies the progression of someone’s highs and lows during one single night. It’s quite an intriguing concept, and, besides the vocals, it’s the only place of remarkability.
Sonically, the album is predominantly mainstream — monotonous trap beats and bland drumming are utilized in the worst moments of this album — but the light shines through enough to balance it out. The title track, “Doom Days,” is the one exception to using the atrocious instrumentation, as it uses contemporarily overplayed trap music to help paint a picture of modern-day addictions. “Nocturnal Creatures” is bland all-around, and “Those Nights” brilliantly exhibits the vulnerability of solitude. The album dips around, but its overarching theme is smart and good enough to make it a worthwhile listen.
Here are the best five songs from Doom Days:
5. “Bad Decisions” (00:48)
Smith makes it clear on “Bad Decisions” that high notes are practically effortless for him. The track tackles a notion that would never cross most people’s mind: Own up to the inevitable mistakes you have made and will make again—you are only human after all. This is only the second track of the night, and Smith already wants to own up to everything that’s bound to happen in the hours to come: “And if we’re going down in flames / Take a bow for the bad decisions that we made / Bad decisions that we made / So we’ll make the same mistakes ’til the morning breaks.” The guitar and drums flow superbly with the vocals, and the track is a great anthem for all kinds of situations.
4. “Quarter Past Midnight” (00:15)
Beginning the record and the conceptual night is “Quarter Past Midnight,” which sets the tone for the emotional, wild ride ahead. It’s an energetic track that implements pulsating guitars, lively drums and some of Smith’s best vocals to date to convey a carefree soul who just wants to get away from the world’s chaos: “It’s a quarter past midnight, still avoiding tomorrow / It’s a quarter past midnight, but we’re just getting going.” The lyrics even contain some immensely profound messages: “Yeah, yeah, we want the bodies on the billboards, not the lives underneath them.” It’s a very exuberant way to start the album, and the best way Bastille could’ve done so.
3. “Joy” (08:34)
Concluding the album and the night that was a roller coaster of emotions is “Joy,” a track that very accurately outlines the aftermath of a night out. Smith wakes up in a frenzy, but all of the chaos immediately vanishes when the right person gives him a call. A choir flawlessly backs up Smith in the chorus, and it makes the elation that much more genuine: “Oh, joy, when you call me / I was giving up; oh, I was giving in / Oh, joy, set my mind free.” The drums mimic a steady heartbeat, suggesting that although the eventful night is over, it ended optimistically and changed Smith’s life for the better.
2. “Divide” (02:05)
Stripped to just melancholy piano, steady drums and impassioned vocals is “Divide,” a sorrowful ballad about not wanting to separate from a loved one and, ultimately, the entire world. This track occurs early in the album’s conceptual night, and the blatant sentiment in Smith’s voice discloses that he really means what he says: “In these darker days, I push the limit to the love you offer / There’s a riot in my head demanding we do this forever / Why would we divide when we could come together?” With about a minute left of the track, more voices join in to beautifully harmonize with the already flawless Smith, and it’s riveting.
1. “4AM” (04:00)
Smith revealed on Twitter that this is his favorite track on the album, as it should be. It contains the most compelling, dreamy instrumentation, made perfect by subtle saxophone and both endearing lyrics and vocals. The night is starting to end, and Smith has recognized the people he is weary with is all he will ever need: “Here, here, my friends and me / You are my familiar / Oh, there is nowhere I would rather be / Never felt more comfortable, could never want for more when I’m here.” The outro fades with lyrics from “Quarter Past Midnight,” suggesting the night will come full circle, and Smith doesn’t want to change any of his experiences from the last few hours. The track is thoroughly stunning, and it’s the best on Doom Days.