Album review: Glass Animals – Dreamland
- Credit: Archant
Celebrated electro-popsters reveal a hypnotic, nuanced and considered third album.
The third record from Oxford’s Glass Animals has been heavily trailed – the first song shared way back in November, when the world felt like a very different place.
It’s perhaps fortunate that Dreamland still feels right at home in the ‘new normal’, as it too was built on shifting sands.
Frontman and producer Dave Bayley found himself reflecting on his own history and identity after the band’s drummer was seriously injured in a motorbike accident in 2018, leaving him having to learn how to walk, talk and drum again.
The result? Well, this time round the subtropical heat and tribal intensity of the Animals’ earlier material gives way to leaner, cleaner tunes that still retain their punch.
The 12 tracks are closer in atmosphere to fellow UK electronic outfit Metronomy – laid-back vibes and multi-textured, exacting arrangements.
The opening address, also the title track, unfurls gently in your ears, built on a gently glowing motif of pillow-soft keys, as Bayley sings in faint, otherworldly tones about a tour through the backstreets of his mind, pulling a playful kaleidoscope of memories and desires into focus.
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The clever balancing act at play continues through the record, making the deep beats, electro hi-hat and distorted vocals of Heat Waves so slick they can easily carry Bayley’s melancholic protagonist on their shoulders while he laments his own inadequacies.
Dreamland proffers a cocktail of considered arrangements with pop hearts and natty details – be it the fairground organ chug in Tangerine or the percussive clicks in Space Ghost Coast To Coast.
There’s plenty to unpack in the lyrics, too – the latter song explores Bayley’s disbelief at a former friend’s failed attempt to shoot up a school in the US.
And while it’s rare to find attention-grabbing pop about marital violence, Domestic Bliss is every bit as touching and eloquent on the subject as its beats and melody are compelling and hypnotic.
A special mention also for the muscly, swaggering hip-hop nugget Tokyo Drifting, which features some speedy spitting from US punk rapper Denzel Curry while Bayley talks up the fantasy lifestyle of his alter ego Wavey Davey, all fresh kicks, superclubs and Snoop Dogg wheels.
With its mix of focus and fantasy, Dreamland is arguably the perfect tonic for the age of uncertainty.