An entire emotional arch
Bastille’s newest EP Goosebumps is a collection of three songs, two of which have alternate recordings from their studio One Eyed Jack’s. This makes for a total of five tracks on the EP, arranged so that the titular song “Goosebumps” both opens and closes the album. In general, Goosebumps (the album) is shaped like an arch, a parabolic structure that brings the listeners to a high midpoint and then lets the more somber One Eyed Jack’s versions close it out.
Leading off is “Goosebumps,” which features Kenny Beats providing a slower beat. The more introspective feeling and lower tempo allow Bastille’s singer Dan Smith to work in a highly emotional space. Smith’s voice is typically very distinct and always a pleasure to hear, but he really excels when bringing listeners into emotional moments. Lyrically, however, “Goosebumps” is simply good and not much more. The words weave a tale of lost love and the entanglement of fantasy and reality in the singer’s mind, but it all sounds just a bit less distinctive than the band’s usual work.
The second (and therefore also fourth) song on the EP is “survivin’” which is a low-key, groovy song with a surprising but not unwelcome saxophone lick. Here, Smith sings about just getting by in times when things aren’t so good, but you just have to pull through and focus on the fact that you are alive. It’s a song for anyone who responds to “how’s it going” with “it’s going,” in lieu of being able to say “I’m good.” Although there are some parts where the saxophone kicks in a bit too hard for the rest of the instruments and the vocals, it is still a great song.
The final song that isn’t an alternate version of an earlier one is “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” which features Graham Coxon, of Blur fame. This was a bit of a surprising feature, but a quite welcome one. Coxon provides background vocals and some stellar guitar work through the track, which is a high point energywise and forms the peak of the mountain of the EP. Smith carries the raucous energy well, as he has on previous work, and in general “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” is a very fun song to just listen to and get lost in for a couple of minutes.
On the back half of the EP, the alternate One Eyed Jack’s version of “survivin’” is a well done melancholy rendition of the song’s previous groove. It feels like a resolution to the energy built up over the previous three tracks, all being released at the end of “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” and then having a soft landing in “survivin’.” However, the original song’s groove is powerful enough that the track is just a hair worse off for not having it. Meanwhile, the One Eyed Jack’s version of “Goosebumps” is a fantastic closer to the project. This song greatly benefits from having fewer effects on it, and Smith letting his distinctive voice run free is a highlight for the entire thing.
Overall, Goosebumps is a great EP, with quality tracks all the way through and only a few missteps. It also is certainly a positive in the rough times people are all living in, as new music is readily welcome when most people should be staying indoors, and Bastille’s artistic visions do shine through, even in this short collection of songs.