September 09, 2016 at 03:55 PM EDT

Bastille’s 2013 smash debut album, Bad Blood, found its purpose in the past. Over piano-driven power pop and faint dance beats, frontman Dan Smith parsed history books (“Pompeii“), Greek and Roman mythology (“Icarus“), and cult TV of the early ’90s (“Laura Brown,” a character on Twin Peaks) for lyrical inspiration.  

Now, after several remix and compilation packages, the foursome are back with their formal follow-up. And while they continue to dig through pop culture for inspiration — the sweeping electro-dirge “Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith)” meditates on one of the main characters from Truman Capote’s famous 1966 novel In Cold BloodWild World is firmly rooted in the here and now. These 19 songs are steered by Smith’s anxieties, both internal (“An Act of Kindness” addresses his insecurities) and external (“Warmth” is a club-banging tirade against the endless news cycle). Musically, Bastille also sound current: EDM-style builds and drops propel enormous hooks, while handclap rhythms and drum machines carry sunny sing-alongs. Synths abound. While Bastille’s expansion of influences is admirable, the whole album runs more than an hour in length and the sonic whiplash can be tiring. It’s cool they’re trying on many different styles, but truly killer albums have laser-sharp focus. 

Key Tracks:

Two Evils“: Smith and bandmate Will Farquarson strip things down for a haunting ballad. 

An Act of Kindness“: A downtempo electro-banger recalling memories of an outstretched hand during a time of despair. 

 

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