Bad Suns
Apocalypse Whenever

The fourth studio album from indie rockers Bad Suns was conceived as “the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist yet,” according to the band’s frontman Christo Bowman. This approach to their songwriting on Apocalypse Whenever makes more sense after a few spins of the record that sounds crisp, pop-driven, and vibrant, thanks in large part to veteran producer Eric Palmquist (Thrice, Mutemath). Bowman also shared, “We also knew we wanted the album to have a through-line, a story from beginning to end,” and the “movie soundtrack” feel can be understood better throughout the complex weave of lyrical lines painted throughout the LP. The album plays out like an 80’s synth-laden dreamscape that has lofty goals from the outset, and hits its intended target more often than not as it pulls on the heartstrings of this golden era of pop music.

Apocalypse Whenever’s promotional rollout was different than the band’s approach to their last three albums, with six singles (nearly half of the album) being released prior to the record hitting the streets this past Friday. It’s definitely a different way to digest a record that is intended to be listened from front to back, in order to get the full “story” outlined by the California-based band. In between Mystic Truth and Apocalypse Whenever, the band released two singles (“Unstable” and “I’m Not Having Any Fun”) that didn’t make the cut of Mystic Truth, and ironically those tracks sound better suited for the direction on this current album cycle.

The opening title track sets the scene of Bowman’s headspace as he sings gently, “Life tried to break me, then life fell apart / Love me or hate me, I’m still in your heart / Life’s not been pretty, but I’m still not ready to die / I’ve never felt so alive, alright.” It’s unsure if he’s relating to a past relationship or stuck within the story outlined on this album, but he remains optimistic and steadfast on improving his outlook. The opener bleeds well enough into “Summer Lightning” that has some great and quick synths to build up to a crescendo in the chorus. “Baby Blue Shades” was the first taste of the direction Bad Suns were going for on this album concept, and it’s a great mix of pop, indie rock, and upbeat guitar tones in order to keep anticipation high for the rest of the record. The second verse of, “Breaking out to better days / Buy myself a pair of baby blue shades / Go on, forget me, I wish that you let me / You text me, I’m not writing back / I miss how you hold me, each kiss feels so lonely / But I know I’m on the right track,” packs a dual meaning of remaining on the right path, while still marking a transition to better days on the horizon.

”Peachy” is a dream-pop styled song that reminded me of the styling of Beach House mixed with the vocal flair of Walk the Moon. It’s no wonder why they chose this song as one of the six singles to lead into the release of Apocalypse Whenever, since it remains one of the most memorable tracks. “When the World Was Mine” is another one of those “easy choices” of a single because it hits all of the markings of what you’d want from a hit. It has a great beat, memorable guitar riffs, and a great chorus.

Things start to stray slightly on drawn out ballads like “Wishing Fountains” and the mid-tempo “Electric Circus.” On the latter, it plays out more like an interlude to break up the front and back halves of the record since it doesn’t cover too much new ground. It reminded me a bit of some of the interludes found on Foster the People and Sir Sly’s recent efforts. Things pick back up on the right track with “Nightclub (Waiting for You)” that feels like a night-time stroll through the city looking for the best place to spend your evening. I loved the chorus’s lyrics of, “Waiting for you to come back home / I’m waiting for you to call my phone / I lay on the roof, see you in the stars / Evading the truth in cafes and bars,” since it hits just the right mix of picturesque music paired with strong, relatable visuals.

”Life Was Easier When I Only Cared About Me” is a great title for a song, in general, but it basically writes itself with it’s upbeat synth-pop flair, an made for another obvious choice of the last single to hit the streets before the entire album came out. “Heaven is a Place in My Head” is another example of this pattern of having a great title paired with the musical chops to bring everything to fruition to make for a standout single. Both of these songs keep the album on the right path, and prevent the material from sounding too similar.

”Grace (I Think I’m In Love Again)” is a beautifully constructed ballad that allows for Bowman to hone in on his strengths as a songwriter and vocalist as he paints a picture of a starry night filled with the person he wants to be with the most in this world. He opens with the starry-eyed lines of, “Grace, on the first night I saw your face / On the outside of cyberspace / I emerged from a haunted place / I think I’m in love again / You eclipse me / Our lips meet,” and it feels like he’s at peace with everything.

”Symphony of Lights” closes out this chapter in the Bad Suns discography, and unfortunately doesn’t bring too much new to the fold, with the exception of closing out the story told by the band. Overall, I was pleased with the effort that came forth on Apocalypse Now, and almost all of the songs are well thought out and make for a fun album listening experience from front to back (as intended). While I didn’t enjoy this album as much as Mystic Truth and Disappear Here, I have a strong feeling I’ll be revisiting this record often throughout this uncertain year.