The English psych-pop band Glass Animals has been making a splash in the pop music scene since the release of their debut LP, “Zaba,” in 2014. With hits such as “Gooey” and “Pools,” the group, headed by frontman Dave Bayley, developed a name for themselves on their first record by creating strange, jungle-inspired dance music that kept fans coming back to that record for years. The band’s second album, “How To Be A Human Being,” was released two years later in August 2016. The album took a notably different approach than “Zaba,” abandoning its nature-based soundscape and replacing it with a more varied and somewhat industrial sound, all the while maintaining the lively spirit of the band that fans fell in love with on the first record.
Prior to the group’s third full-length album, “Dreamland,” released this past Friday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been a massive fan of Glass Animals since early high school, and “Zaba” is one of my favorite albums of all time. However, it has been four years since the group’s last release, and it wasn’t clear if “Dreamland” would continue the new sound introduced on “How To Be A Human Being” or if they would significantly change it up again as they had between “Zaba” and that second release.
Now that “Dreamland” is out and I have had the chance to listen to it nonstop all weekend, I think I can confidently say I absolutely love this record.
“Dreamland” is the logical next development in the sound of Glass Animals. The music, once again, maintains the almost exotic atmosphere the band crafted so well on their previous two albums, but there’s also a lot of growth in the sound. The group wasn’t afraid to branch out beyond the limits of its previous LPs. It explored new genres and ideas that didn’t have a place in the band’s previous works, and the result is an incredibly fresh, exciting and surprisingly personal album that is sure to garner new fans and revitalize the passion of existing ones.
The new album consists of 16 tracks, four of which are brief interludes that utilize bits of audio from Bayley’s childhood home videos, making the total runtime right around 45 minutes.
On Instagram, Bayley has been pushing the idea that the album is about growing up, and when listening to the lyrics it’s easy to see why. This is far-and-away the most personal record that Glass Animals has put out yet. Lyrically, most of the tracks are based on Bayley’s own childhood experiences, from budding friendships to witnessing spousal abuse, growing up in Texas before eventually moving to the U.K. at the age of 13. The songs of “Dreamland” provide a look inside the experiences of Bayley both as a child and as an adult coming to terms with love, pain, confusion and a myriad of different emotions.
The first track, “Dreamland,” serves as a table of contents for the entire record. Many of the specific ideas and themes of the album are introduced in this song before being explored deeper later on. The hypnotic sound of the title track also serves to slowly immerse the listener in the soundscape the album is creating. The song isn’t a bombastic or exciting opener like “Life Itself” and “Flip” on the previous two records, but it does an excellent job preparing the audience for all of the excitement and introspection that comes throughout the rest of the tracklist.
The pace picks up quickly after the opening track as the album immediately moves into “Tangerine,” one of the most colorful and grooving tracks Glass Animals has ever produced. The song creates a light and airy tone that lifts the listener’s spirits before delving into an incredibly fun and frankly fabulous groove that makes it hard not to dance along. The song mixes elements introduced in both “Zaba” and “How To Be A Human Being,” but it still manages to create its own experience, showing that instead of relying on the sounds of previous LPs, the band is growing and learning to apply ideas in fresh new ways.
This showcase of the band’s willingness to explore new ideas is arguably the most present in the song “Hot Sugar,” which follows “Tangerine” after a brief interlude.
“Hot Sugar” sees the band moving in a rhythm and blues-inspired direction, which has been toyed with in the past. Bayley’s softer, high vocals mixed with the various harmonies and the slower, more rhythmic beat the song develops make “Hot Sugar” one of the sexiest songs the band has ever released. The song’s lyrics explore the idea of someone who thinks they’re falling in love but in reality is entranced by the allurement of their potential love’s personality. This idea of confused love comes up multiple times throughout the record, specifically in the tracks “Melon and the Coconut” and “Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth,” and each time there’s a new twist that resonates a little deeper with the listener.
Some of the edgier cuts from “Dreamland” include the tracks “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and, the first single released off of the record, “Tokyo Drifting.” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” brings a darker, more bass-driven sound to the album, which matches the lyrics that speculate the motivations of an old friend of Bayley’s attempt at a school shooting. “Tokyo Drifting” talks about diving face-first into a lavish lifestyle of drugs and fashion. The song also features a verse delivered by rapper Denzel Curry, which marks the first time the group has prominently featured another artist on one of their albums. This Denzel Curry feature on “Tokyo Drifting” is definitely a new and different vibe than what Glass Animals has done in the past, but it fits in very well with the atmosphere Dreamland creates.
Glass Animals continues this streak of opting to change up and experiment with their style throughout the record, with highlights being tracks such as “Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth,” “It’s All So Incredibly Loud” and “Heat Waves.”
Each song on Dreamland is a piece of a larger puzzle, and there is some assembly required. The album is undoubtedly great for casual listening, but it’s once the listener sits down and starts putting these pieces together that the quality of “Dreamland” really begins to shine through. The amount of care, thought and work put into every track on this album is staggering. Each song gives the audience something new to reflect on. It introduces many different ideas and themes which will hopefully make “Dreamland” a record that only gets better with age.
I’m not sure where the album stands among the three Glass Animals has now released, but the fact that I’m not already willing to rank it below any of the others — both of which I absolutely love — is encouraging. “Dreamland” provides some of the most refined and focused material the band has put out to date, and it makes the four-year wait more than worth it. Seeing the band’s evolution from “Zaba” to “Dreamland” makes me believe that whatever the band decides to put out next will also be something new and different to look forward to. For now, I’m more than happy to keep “Dreamland” on an endless loop.