Monday, December 8, 2014

VS. (Other People's Heartache, Pt. III) | Bastille


★★★★☆

The past few years have been exciting for the members of English alternative rock band Bastille. After releasing their debut album and a subsequent release, the band gained popularity both in the United States and the United Kingdom with popular cuts like "Pompeii" and "Of The Night." Bastille went on to nab the BRIT Award for Best Breakthrough Act this year, as well as nominations for Best New Artist at the 2014 American Music Awards and 2015 Grammy Awards. While Bad Blood and All This Bad Blood are the band's only formal studio releases, most Bastille fans know that the quartet have a running series of mixtapes, tagged Other People's Heartache. (Some tracks from these mixtapes were slid into the extra disc of All This Bad Blood.) After releasing the first two mixtapes for free digitally, Bastille has decided to take a new approach by releasing the third installment of the mixtape series digitally and physically at a small price. VS. (Other People's Heartache, Pt. III) is a set of nine tracks, all made in collaboration with other artists, that still screams of the band's originality.

After a fragile, string-heavy introduction track featuring The Gemma Sharples Quartet, we are thrown into Bastille's experimental playground. While the band's debut album and subsequent re-release are filled with their signature sonic niche in alternative rock, their mixtapes have traditionally been places for the band to toy around with a wide array of sounds. This time around, we get a mixture of a few reworks of tracks that have already been formally released and some new material. "bad_news," which premiered as a B-side from the Oblivion EP earlier this year, receives new duet vocals from recording artist and producer MNEK, and elements of All That Bad Blood's "Skulls" have been pushed into a trio acoustic rendition titled "Remains." The stripped-back feeling of "Remains" suits the lyrical content before the track expands with strings and featured vocals from British band Skunk Anansie. 

Fans will get a few completely new tracks in the mix, as well. The band keeps the sound close to their alternative rock home on "The Driver," which is led by a lonely guitar in its verses until Smith screams out, "Big boys don't cry, they don't ask why," and the track spirals into a climax. However, the true beauty of VS. appears in Bastille's highly-experimental handicrafts. From the heavy beats and subtle synth lines integrated into "Bite Down" to the aggressive grinding bass line of "Weapon," the band shows a liking to effective electronic influences. Perhaps the farthest Bastille gets from home base sonically is with Tyde and Rationale on "Axe to Grind," which thrives on its layers of synth and fitful beats, or on the club-ready "Torn Apart." These two light club tracks in particular concrete the need for a Bastille and Disclosure collaboration in the near future.

Bastille has consistently produced quality tunes since their conception a few years ago in forms of both studio albums and mixtapes, and the third piece of the Other People's Heartache puzzle is no exception. While it is clear that this set is meant to be a mixtape rather than a solid full-length follow-up to Bad Blood, Bastille still brings quality to the forefront. The band has hinted at electronic and R&B influences being present on their next studio album and if this mixtape is any clue to how that album will sound, the band's sophomore full-length could have a lot of potential. While most casual listeners have not heard of most of the acts featured on VS., they all blend well with the band without overpowering them. To be short, this heartache may belong to others, but Bastille sure takes it on as their own.

VS. (Other People's Heartache, Pt. III) will be released December 9, 2014 under Virgin Records.

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