Disappear Here, the newest album by California alt-rock band Bad Suns, sounds like it was created for sunset drives down winding roads. The follow-up to 2014’s Language and Perspective, it takes the listener on a journey through a myriad of sonic landscapes, making stops along the way to marvel at both the beauty and the harsh truth of the universe. Some of its tracks are wistful laments of good times gone wrong; others are upbeat celebrations of life. All thirteen of them shine with insight, honesty and enough rock-and-roll confidence to convince listeners that Bad Suns is a band to be watched.
If, while reading this, you’re thinking that the name Bad Suns sounds familiar, you’re probably right. In 2014, the band’s infectious single “Cardiac Arrest” reached #14 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, making a big impression with its catchy, emotive chorus. In addition, the band has toured with artists like The 1975, The Neighbourhood and, most recently, Halsey. Bad Suns deserves every bit of buzz its been getting, as its newest release demonstrates.
The album opens gracefully with the title track, an ’80s new wave-inspired musing on the status of a relationship. Throughout the song, frontman Christo Bowman’s powerful vocals leap up and down the staff, mirroring his fluctuating emotions. The following track, “Heartbreaker,” is another standout. A post-breakup anthem with an unforgettable staccato bridge and a yearning chorus, it’s sure to be a fan favorite during concerts. After all, who could resist the urge to sing along every time Bowman repeats the song’s title, sounding like Robert Smith during the glory days of The Cure?
The next couple of tracks are just as spectacular as the first two. The sunny, Rooney-esque “Off She Goes” would be the perfect soundtrack for any movie about young, beautiful people chasing their dreams. Its magical riff, both played and sung, electrifies the song’s classic message of “believing in yourself,” making it seem new and intriguing rather than hackneyed. “Love Like Revenge,” one of the album’s most distinct tracks, is equally innovative. With a horn section and a synthesizer part, it never loses its momentum.
The later songs on the album are just as exciting. “Defeated,” which evokes comparisons to The Police, seems perfectly placed at number eight on the track list. It’s the Act Two punch that reminds the listener that Bad Suns has bad days, but is ready to face every one of its problems head-on—the “Bet on It” of the album, if you will. “Maybe We’re Meant to Be Alone” is also a must-hear. As a slow, somber track, it’s a risk for the band—but a risk that needed to be taken, and a risk that pays off. The song shows off Bowman’s vocal range exceptionally well; both his high notes and low notes are gracefully sung with emotion and depth.
“Outskirts of Paradise” is the glorious finale that the album deserves. Like an encore to a stage musical that gives every performer one last dance in the spotlight, it showcases the abilities of all four band members. Christo Bowman’s and Ray Libby’s guitars imbue the track with contagious energy, especially through the song’s signature riff. Gavin Bennett’s bassline stands out, and Miles Kottak’s upbeat percussion keeps the song peppy. Instead of presenting an overly-optimistic or pessimistic view of life and love, “Outskirts of Paradise” maintains a realistic, yet hopeful tone. Its bridge—”I’m on the outskirts of paradise/chasing desire through the night/picturing ways to take flight”—can convey either frustration or eagerness depending on the perspective of this listener, and that is where much of the song’s strength lies. When the music fades out, audiences will find their minds full of both catchy melodies and new thoughts to contemplate.
All in all, Disappear Here presents Bad Suns as a band that knows about balance. The album’s retro sheen sets the group apart from its contemporaries, but does not make it sound outdated in the least. On top of that, all of its songs sound glossy and are easy on the ears, but do not sacrifice creativity or boldness whatsoever. Are they saturated with hooks and anthemic choruses? Yes. Do they sound overproduced or banal? No way—not at all. Rest assured that the band’s catchiness is a supplement to meaning rather than a replacement for it. Bad Suns is the full package—energetic, musically intelligent, ingenious and ready to make your fingers tired from hitting the “replay” button so many times.