Bastille's debut album was a runaway success, a sheer pop triumph from start to finish.
For their second album, the group aim to match that shimmering pop surface to something a little deeper. 'Wild World' arrives in September, and it finds Bastille pushing outward in fresh, vivid directions.
“If our first album was about growing up and the anxieties surrounding it,” Dan Smith explains, “Our second is about trying to make sense of the world around you, both as you see it and as it’s presented to you through the media. It’s also about asking questions of the world and of the people in it. We wanted the album to be a bit disorientating - at times extroverted and introverted, light and dark.”
Eager to find out more, Clash invited Bastille's Dan Smith to take part in Foundations – picking out the albums that fired his musical imagination.
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The Flaming Lips - 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots'
I absolutely loved this album as a teenager. It’s brimming and overflowing with massive hooks, totally bizarre narratives and mad sounds. I always thought the use of sound design was really great, and I was fascinated by the way the album flows from track to track through segues and outros.
There’s a wonderful languidness to much of it massive pop songs morph into instrumental tracks, nestled amongst soundscapes and programmed beats. I love how rich it is instrumentally, as a plethora of synthesisers sit comfortably alongside acoustic instruments that are often themselves chopped about. I can always visualise the larger-than-life album artwork when I hear the songs from this record, and I absolutely loved the live shows that accompanied this album as they felt like huge, irreverent parties.
It definitely made me think about the potential to create not just an album, but a whole little world around it.
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Regina Spektor - 'Soviet Kitsch'
There was something that feels truly original about this album. There's a sense of complete individuality and carefree abandon that totally blew my mind when I first heard it. I remember listening to the whole thing late at night on John Kennedy's XFM show when I was at school and I thought how fucking awesome it was to have someone singing these varied, punky piano led songs.
The use of strings in 'Us' led me into a big obsession with strings in pop music, and Spektor's odd, off-kilter and often very complex and dark narratives ('Chemo Limo' for example) made me want to write songs that weren’t about your usual well-trodden topics. I love the ingenuity with which she makes beats with her mouth or by hitting a chair, and sings love songs about dying from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
The album is rough around the edges and sounds completely effortless and natural via the Regina's wonderfully unique Russian-American voice.
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Fugees - 'The Score'
When I was really young my older sister bought me 'Killing Me Softly' as a single. It led me to this album which totally blew my mind. It's populated by these three young and powerful voices who have so much to say and don’t hold back from saying it.
It’s an album rich with great beats, samples, and segues, and it always felt layered and complex as voices wander in and out, rapping and singing, yet it feels so cohesive and never shies away from brilliant hooks either. I don't think I fully comprehended the album as a child, I just loved the record, in particular Lauren Hill's verses and her singing. I remember my sister asking my dad what "deficating on your microphone" meant and his awkward reluctance at telling us.
I think this album also showed me early on how brilliantly some people can take other people's songs and transform them into something else entirely, bringing new life to old tunes through reinterpretation. It also just happens to be a fucking awesome album from start to finish.
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Antony & The Johnsons - 'I Am A Bird Now'
As someone who grew up figuring out how to write songs at a piano (it was the only instrument I could play), I found myself really drawn to other piano-playing vocalists who stood out as different and striking. I remember hearing 'I Am A Bird Now' and feeling confused by it and at the same time completely drawn to it. It is filled with narratives that are sometimes devastatingly sad ('Fistful Of Love'), and has moments of unflinching honesty and self-realisation ('For Today I Am A Boy'), but there's something quite uplifting about the whole thing.
Hegarty's delicate and characterful piano playing is distinctly individual, as is her wonderful and unmistakable voice. I have a - hugely inferior - but also quite unusual voice, and this album made me worry less about it’s oddness. It's an album that can seem minimal and sparse but it has so much to unpack, and it is laced with the kind of beautiful vocal harmonies and strings that always get me like a punch to the heart or the stomach.
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Sufjan Stevens - 'Illinois'
There are so many things I found intriguing and inspiring in this album. I love the broad conceptual sweep of 'Illinois' that allowed Stevens to touch on so many fascinating themes and stories. I loved his instantly recognisable voice, and also his orchestration and instrumentation that feels so totally individual to him. This album showed me that a big, sprawling, ambitious sounding and outward looking album could come from just one person in his small, low key studio.
When I started writing songs it was always a private thing and I’d never intended to share them with anyone. I got hold of a 12 track recorded and used to spend hours on end obsessively layering sounds and using my voice and any instruments I could find to make songs that hoped would sound beyond their means. This album was like a blueprint in my mind of things you could achieve by yourself.
We’ve made both Bastille albums and all of our mixtapes in our tiny, modest, windowless basement studio in South London and I think, if anything, that environment drives us to be more ambitious with the sounds we try to create.
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Simon and Garfunkel - 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters'
This was an album that played constantly around the house and in the car when I was a kid. It’s made up of so many classic songs that I assumed for a long time that it was a greatest hits collection. I was probably also struck by the variety across the record, both in terms of instrumentation but also songwriting styles.
I loved the vast, choral vocal layering on 'Only Living Boy in New York', the huge string arrangement in the title track, and the mad slapback beat and percussion in 'Ceclia'. The album jumps around tonally and stylistically, and I think it’s a big part of the reason I always wanted our albums and mixtapes to vary sonically from song to song, and for each one of our tunes to be distinctive in their own right.
I also love the narratives that are spun throughout the album, and the music around them does so much to help set the scene and tone for each story.
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'Wild World' will be released on September 9th.