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Glass Animals continue to milk their past sound with 'Dreamland'

by Brandon Carson Debuting in 2013 with a self-titled EP, Glass Animals stormed onto the scene with the song “Black Mambo,” a quirky indie-pop song about being outmatched by someone. Hailing from Oxford, England, the band grew quite an audience with their hip-hop inspired beats and fun, sexy melodies. The band released their first full-length album ZABA in 2014, which featured more or less the same sounds from their EP with more realized songwriting. Their creativity continued to shine with the release of How to Be a Human Being in 2016. The album is a light concept of stories that people had told front man Dave Bayley on tour. Overall, it wasn’t too different from ZABA, but with songs like “Youth,” “Season 2 Episode 3,” and the beautiful closer, “Agnes,” the vocals became just another instrument and made the songs even more powerful. Their new album, Dreamland, unfortunately falls flat and continues to milk the same sounds that gave them success. Don’t get me wrong, as with their two past records, there are quite a few good songs. However, the concept is inconsistent musically and some songs are so by-the-numbers for Glass Animals that they come off as filler. That being said, there are a number of notable tracks that stand out and save the album.

The Glass Animals standard

With Dreamland, Glass Animals have fully realized their sound and what works for their audience. While that’s great for the band, it takes a toll on the music and flow of the album. The fantastic opener, “Dreamland,” sets the tone for the concept of 90s and youth nostalgia with its wavy use of synths and chill atmosphere. While the vocals are basic for Glass Animals, the production is dreamier and more lo-fi than it has been previously. But as soon as “Tangerine” starts, it’s clear that that change was a façade. The hip-hop inspired beat and catchy vocal melodies make it feel like the band doesn’t want to create something out-of-the-box and would rather stick to what they know. “Hot Sugar” continues this trend with yet another hip-hop inspired beat featuring repetitive vocals and a catchy melody. “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” feels like it could have been the change of pace the album needed with its more fun but chill sound. However, it is too short and repetitive to go anywhere new, making it feel like a standard song for them. Fortunately, their 2019 single “Tokyo Drifting” saves the flow of the album, creating a nice change of pace musically and featuring a great verse from Denzel Curry. Even the lyrical content is different on this song, providing a very braggadocious attitude in contrast to the usual sad boy attitude. The album picks up from here and gets a whole lot better. However, Dreamland is 16 songs long, and it is still peppered with average songs that fill up the space (I’m looking at you “Heat Waves”). None of the songs are bad per se, but nothing about them stands out much, making them a little forgettable.

When it’s good, it’s amazing

Even though Dreamland feels like an average Glass Animals album at times, when there are good songs, there are quality songs. “Melon and the Coconut” finally brings back the dreamy vibe of the opener and tells the humorous story of a melon and coconut breaking up. The instrumentals are new to the ears, bringing a much-needed change for the album. “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” keeps the fire lit with an exciting and suave song that has the best production on the album. It offers the catchy vocal melodies of old while also taking more chances musically that really pay off. “It’s All So Incredibly Loud” pushes the envelope and delivers both musically and lyrically. Even the subject matter for the song is interesting; it’s about the three seconds after someone tells another person something that they didn’t want to hear, and how the silence after is “incredibly loud.” The closer, “Helium,” is a fantastic closer with interesting production choices, a variety of musical shifts, and the dreamy vibe from the opener that rounds out the album well. While the album is plagued by mediocre tracks, these songs provide just enough quality and change to keep the mediocrity from completely infecting the album.

Interludes that lead to nowhere

One particularly confusing choice in the album comes in the form of its various interludes. There are interludes scattered across the record with similar titles called, “((home movies: <insert individual title here>)).” With four in total, two are very short one liners from Bayley’s home movies as a child. While the concept, reinforced by the childhood quality of the interludes makes sense, it doesn’t really go anywhere, as the songs themselves don’t do much to make the album’s concept known. The other two, however, are longer and create more of a connection with the songs, while keeping the choice to use audio from home movies. Overall, the interludes seem disconnected from the album and easily skippable. Top Tracks: It’s All So Incredibly Loud Melon and the Coconut Your Love (Déjà Vu) Recommended if you like: Local Natives Portugal, the Man Hippo Campus
Featured Image: U Discover Music