british indie bands

Bastille

It was 2013. I was in California for the first time visiting my cousin and exploring the southern portion of the state. I can’t remember what day it was or if it was night time or the middle of the afternoon, but I sat in her downstairs bathroom catching up on social media. I saw a tweet from someone I followed that hyped up a band named Bastille. The tweet also mentioned several songs. I sat there checking each one out before I left the bathroom. I can’t say I was a fan of any of the songs. I had much more important things to focus on though, mainly being in California. That was the first time I heard of Bastille.

Months later I re-evaluated my opinions on the band. I got into the song Pompeii (like everyone else) and eventually Bad Blood. Pompeii was one of the songs I listened to in my cousin’s bathroom. The song Flaws was another, which I started liking later on too. Sometimes bands or artists have to grow on us. Sometimes we have to hear them in a different context to appreciate them. That’s what happened in this situation for me. Now a little over three years since I first heard Bastille, I fell in love with their sophomore album, Wild World.

Bastille is a British indie pop band formed primarily by lead vocalist Dan Smith, but includes members, Kyle Simmons (keyboard), Will Farquarson (guitar and bass), and Chris Wood (drums). The band was formed in 2010 as a solo project of Smith’s. The band name comes from the French holiday Bastille Day which is celebrated July 14th, Dan Smith’s birthday. The band independently released their debut single and self released their first EP before their debut, Bad Blood, came out under Virgin Records in March of 2013.

Their first album reached the number one position on the UK Albums Chart upon its release. Following the release, Bastille played SXSW and supported Muse on The 2nd Law Tour in May and June. They also played on the UK festival circuit in the summer 2013 including appearances at Glastonbury, Blissfields, and Reading and Leeds (all festivals they played in prior years as well). The band won a BRIT Award in February 2014 for Best Breakthrough Artist. In December 2014, the band released their third mixtape (the first two were released in 2012). The mixtape had all original content compared to the combination of original songs and covers on the first two.

After a somewhat quiet 2015, this past June Bastille announced their second album, Wild World, and released the first single from the album “Good Grief”. The album was released on September 9th. By the album’s second week, it topped the UK and Scottish album charts.

The success of their first album will be difficult to match, but if my opinion says anything, I thought it was excellent the first time I listened to it (Can you tell how much Bastille has grown on me?). It looks as if the band will be touring worldwide to promote their new album through the coming months. They’ll most likely be playing several dates on the festival circuit next year as well. Just by looking at their upcoming tour dates, there’s a pretty good indication that they’ll be a lock for Coachella 2017, their second Coachella.

They are undoubtedly an indie pop band, so much so that I initially questioned if they were indie at all. I think the initial reason why I wasn’t into them was because of how pop their music sounded. Maybe that’s also why I was into their newest album upon first listen. I feel like I’ve been listening to more poppy stuff lately. Too much poppy stuff if you ask me (Feel free to send me indie recommendations!). Anyway, I think their new album has many similarities to their first. Bastille has such a distinct sound that it’s difficult for me to pick out some major differences. I’m sure I could if I really studied both albums, but just take that as it is for now. If anything, there might be a hint more of an electronic influence in Wild World than in Bad Blood.

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on your opinion), I’ve seen Bastille play before. They played the Sweetlife Festival in 2014, which I attended to see Lana Del Rey and Foster the People. I had lawn tickets (because it was all that was available at the time) and wanted to get a good spot for Lana and FTP so my friends and I hung out at the main stage all day. It resulted in missing Capital Cities and St. Lucia, but allowed me to see some great performances from Hozier, Bastille, and Fitz and the Tantrums. Bastille was actually my unintended favorite performance of the day. During the set Dan Smith, walked the entire length of the pavilion to the lawn area and back to the stage, which hyped up the crowd immensely. Pompeii, as their most successful song, also yielded a great crowd reaction.

If you’re into pop music, or indie pop, Bastille is a band you should check out. I also highly recommend seeing them live. I didn’t have any expectations for them at Sweetlife going in, but I thought they absolutely crushed their set. So if you do plan on checking them out or plan to see them live, these are a few songs you need to hear:

  1. Pompeii
  2. Bad Blood
  3. Flaws
  4. Overjoyed
  5. Good Grief
  6. Send Them Off!
  7. Things We Lost in the Fire
  8. Fake It
  9. No Scrubs (TLC Cover) (This cover is so so so so good!)
  10. Warmth

 

Triangles are my favorite shape: alt-J Concert Review

On Friday, I was able to attend a show on alt-J’s Fall 2015 North American Tour. I saw alt-J for the first time at Coachella this past year. I wrote about them leading up to the yearly event in the southern California desert so I won’t re-hash about the group or how they got their name from a Mac keyboard command. Instead, I’ll just let you know that my second time seeing them was just as good, if not better than the first.

After seeing them at Coachella (it was one of my top 3 favorite sets) and seeing how cheap tickets were for their date in Philadelphia last Friday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again. I bought tickets for myself and my two favorite kids as a gift for their graduation this past June. However, about a month and a half before the show, my friend informed me that the date of the show coincided with the Pope’s visit to the Philly with 2 million people expected to be on hand for the event. How awesome, right? Now on top of dealing with traffic and people in a normally busy city on a Friday we also had to handle extra of both because of the Papal visit. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially expected, and we had a phenomenal day in the city leading up to the show.

The show was at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. The venue’s location is right on the Delaware River. As we were walking to the pier, it reminded me of being at the beach to see a concert. The fact that sand surrounded the platform which housed an area for the general admission crowd to stand added to that effect. Add in that it was a cool, breezy September day/night and I felt like I was on a beach on the west coast rather than in a city on the east coast. It was ideal for me. We didn’t have any food at the venue as our stomachs were full from the Shake Shack burgers and fries we had earlier that evening, but I did make a purchase of a Blackberry Lemonade flavored Mike’s Hard. It was way too expensive at $15, but for alcohol at shows/concerts, that’s the price you pay.

San Fermin opened for the boys from Leeds, UK. They’re an American pop band with classical roots formed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yale University graduate who studied composition during his time there. Having released their sophomore album this past April, the eight piece ensemble played songs like “Parasites”, “Sonsick”, and “Jackrabbit” to get the crowd going before the headliners took the stage. I found their music catchy. They seemed like a band I would listen to on occasion but not fall entirely in love with. By the end of the set, I was just itching for alt-J to play.

alt-J opened with the “Intro” from their latest album, This Is All Yours, (how appropriate) and went straight into “Every Other Freckle” much to the delight of concert attendees. As a headliner on their own tour versus an act at an acclaimed music festival, their set was predictably longer. It featured songs from both full length albums like “Something Good”, “Dissolve Me”, “Matilda”, “Tessellate”, and “Fitzpleasure” from their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave and “Left Hand Free”, “The Gospel of John Hurt”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara” from This Is All Yours. They even played the bonus track Bill Withers cover “Lovely Day”. Perhaps one of the coolest transitions in their set was when they performed “Bloodflood” followed by “Bloodflood Pt. 2”. There weren’t many breaks between songs to chat with the crowd, which I liked. To be honest, I do like when bands talk in between songs, but I can also appreciate what alt-J did Friday night. There’s more time for music and there’s nothing wrong with that. The lighting and screens with digital imagery used in their set really captured the essence of their songs as well. This might be overlooked at a show when you’re focused on hearing your favorite songs, but it shouldn’t be. It gave their great performance a little something extra.

After “ending” their set with “Fitzpleasure”, which we all knew wasn’t really the end, the band came back out to perform a four song encore that started with “Hunger on the Pine”, followed by “Warm Foothills” and “Taro”, and closed with “Breezeblocks”. It was a perfect encore. The show left fans feeling fulfilled including me and my friends. It reaffirmed my choice to see them again and was great day/night all around. If you’re a fan, they’re worth seeing live, but even if triangles aren’t your favorite shape, they’re still worth it.

(Since this is the end of my post and I usually recommend some songs, but I’ve written about alt-J before and included song recommendations, I’ll just say to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this post and link you to my alt-J Coachella Band Preview for more info.)