Our Take: 5/5 Stars
British psychedelic pop band Glass Animals has been a staple for every indie playlist for years. The release of their debut studio album “Zaba” in 2014 introduced them as a band who created music that refused to fit in one genre.
Their hit single from that album, “Gooey,” is sickly sweet and dripping in synth. Their follow up album, “How to Be a Human Being,” which came out two years later, ended up being wildly popular and made it clear they were not a one hit wonder. After a four year hiatus, Glass Animals returns in 2020 with “Dreamland.”
Released on August 7th, 2020, the album was pushed back from its original July debut. Unlike the band’s last two albums, “Dreamland” is based in reality; song concepts are pulled heavily from frontman Dave Bayley’s childhood in Texas in the 1990s and early 2000s. This much is immediately clear from the album art, a vaporwave scene that brings back memories of long-gone teal and purple Taco Bell interiors.
The album is made up of a whopping sixteen tracks, but has a short runtime of just over 45 minutes. Quite a few of the tracks are quick vocal interludes with audio from scratchy VHS tapes and titles like “((home movie: 1994))” and “((home movie: shoes on)).” “((home movie: rockets))” features a little boy talking to his mother about a toy rocket as 1950s-esque film music plays in the background. There’s no doubt Glass Animals had an aesthetic vision for this record, and interludes like this help to fulfill the vibe they were going for.
The quick songs allow Glass Animals to experiment with a lot of sounds and stories while still keeping true to their psychedelic rock synth sound. Bayley’s vocals are at this point synonymous with Glass Animals’ sound; his fast, whispered falsetto creates the conflicting sensations of both total relaxation and pulsing anxiety.
The first single of the album is “Tokyo Drifting.” This gritty track has a beat punctuated by a sound reminiscent of a record skipping at the beginning but soon changes to a more siren-like sound. Bayley strays from his usual soft sound for a more rap-inspired delivery.
This switch makes sense, considering Denzel Curry features on the track. Curry’s verses are incredible and he compliments Bayley perfectly. This is definitely one of the first tracks to listen to on the album.
Another must-listen track is “Melon and Coconut.” The audio manipulation on this track is so fun, and Bayley once again reverts to a hip-hop inspired vocal sound. The backing music sounds like a swirling dream, lulling the listener to a trance-like nap.
A song that veteran Glass Animals fans are certain to enjoy is “Your Love (Deja Vu).” This song could be a softer remix of a “How to Be a Human Being” track. It is catchy and the music features their classic fast beat and quirky instrumentals. The lyrics are also quintessentially Glass Animals: provocative, fun and completely nonsensical.
There is a completely different sound in the last standout track, “Hot Sugar.” This song is slow, soft and reminiscent of a John Legend track. It’s a departure from every other Glass Animals sound, but is grounded by Bayley’s whisper-singing.
“Dreamland” may not live up to long-time fans’ high expectations for the band, and does not quite hit the same high-notes that “How to Be a Human Being” did. Still, barring comparison to past records, “Dreamland” is a highly listenable, highly enjoyable album to throw on.