Review: Glass Animals – Dreamland

On their third full-length release, Glass Animals have overcome a period of personal trauma to create a deeply intimate and nostalgia fuelled record.

Throughout this album there’s no escape from the theme of love and longing, but not necessarily between two lovers. The Oxford quartet have always stood out from the overcrowded selection of bands in the industry with their unique hazy psychedelic flow. Each single, even if it’s negative lyrically, radiates positive energy that makes you feel as if you’re living through a summer in the 90s.

Interspersing indie synth-pop and audio from old home movies, lead singer Dave Bayley brings emotion and a sense of vulnerability to the album whilst reflecting on his own adolescence and helplessness whilst sitting at the bedside of the band’s drummer Joe Seward who was involved in a near-fatal cycling accident, resulting in brain damage which left him unable to speak and walk. Through this, the band has managed to find new strength and resilience which sets the tone for their third album.

Dreamland indulges in the idea of a pre-internet society, where we are less on our phones and more in the moment of exploring our personal relationships. It’s an album that sounds both incredibly new and oddly familiar. Given the circumstances, it feels wrong to try and compare it to their other work; Glass Animals have taken a huge leap forward instead of sticking to their traditional tried and tested sounds which sought them popularity years ago. The tracks are organised in such a perfect order that it presents itself more as a start to finish album, with each track seamlessly transitioning into the next without feeling the need to skip through to find one you like.

Their first autobiographical album opens with the title track Dreamland which lays bare honest lyrics over a slow and dreamy instrumental where Bayley reminisces about past experiences. Bayley himself described the song as being ‘a table of contents for the album as whole’. In contrast to the tropical baselines of their past tracks, the band takes a bold and surrealist step into hip-hop in Tokyo Drifting, a collaboration with rapper Denzel Curry. Other songs such as Heat Waves and Tangerine aren’t really anything new and exciting in terms of sound however the vibrant sounds make it irresistible to sing along to whilst imagining yourself lazing on a beach. The innocence of these upbeat, potential dance tracks is abruptly followed by fraught tracks such as Domestic Bliss which follows an abusive marriage, and Space Ghost Coast To Coast which combines millennial childhood nostalgia with musings of school shootings. During these songs Bayley also explores darker childhood themes such as the toxic masculinity culture and questions whether being surrounded by violence prompted his childhood best friend to bring a gun to school.

Their past albums Zaba and How To Be A Human Being have been a narrative of other people’s stories, which is why this raw and intimate look into Bayley’s thoughts are so refreshing. What makes the lyrics even more intriguing, however, is that he keeps up this ‘narrator complex’ by telling his own stories from a third-person point of view.

Admittedly, it’s hard to pick out one or two tracks on the album that are an instant hit compared to songs such as Gooey and The Other Side Of Paradise, two of their most popular releases. However, this feels like a project that was created entirely for their own benefit as opposed to trying to make an album that would top their first two. The uniqueness of this album is that Bayley’s lyrics contain so many hidden layers that it’s impossible to understand the true meanings just by listening through once. The band has successfully created an album where they are able to tell their own story whilst effortlessly combining the lyrics with the sounds that fans have come to love and recognise them for. You can only respect Glass Animals for taking such a risk and letting us in on a more personal level.

Rating: 7/10

By Sarah Ward

Feature Image Credit: Wolf Tone Records

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