Dreamland is the awakening moment from a turbulent time for Glass Animals, the nostalgic personal journey of front man and producer Dave Bayley. A heavy hip-hop influence pervades throughout, but the blueprint of the Oxford band remains: dreamy, danceable psych-pop beats providing the backdrop to the most troublesome of memoirs.
In July 2018 near tragedy struck when drummer Joe Seaward was seriously injured whilst riding his bike in Dublin. The future of the band was put in doubt as Seaward was on the road to recovery. Recent experiences appear to have generated self-reflection, on what is now the band’s third release.
The opening title track takes us straight into this reminiscing tone, with a gently floating introduction setting out a narrative for the album. The pineapples can most probably be left at home for this one. Space Ghost Coast To Coast, mixed by MixedByAli, talks of a childhood friend who planned a school shooting, whilst Domestic Bliss recites an abusive relationship Bayley encountered from afar growing up. “I see the bruise, I see the truth, I see what he been doin’ to you. Blood on the shoes, what’s his excuse?” reveals the deep subject matter to come without any priming.
Tokyo Drifting was the first release from the band since 2016, and it’s a collaboration with hip-hop artist Denzel Curry. Bayley is no stranger to combining genres, having previously worked with Joey Bada$$, Flume, Wale and Khalid, and this inspiration is a regular feature throughout this record. Hot Sugar is a prime example of this also, with hints of New Orleans hip hop drifting on through. It’s All So Incredibly Loud further demonstrates the different dimensions to the album, building with thunderous synthy drums to a haunting crescendo. “You don’t make a sound, heartbreak has never been so loud,” Bayley’s falsetto voice sings, powerfully portraying the breaking of bad news and the resulting devastating effects.
The Mercury nominated album How To Be A Human Being was always going to be a difficult one to follow up. Bleak memories are retold here, and at times you really have to stick with Bayley with a sympathetic ear as the album extends to 16 tracks, including childhood interludes. But it’s delivered in an exuberant manner and, despite some very profound lyrics, songs such as singles Heat Waves and Your Love (Déjà Vu) would have had kids dancing at the festivals in the summer sunshine. Tangerine contains all the familiar catchy hooks we’ve come to associate with Glass Animals as it coasts by with playful ease.
It will be a welcome return when the band can finally hit the road again and Covid-19 has at last slung its hook. It’s been a difficult few months for many recently, though as we slowly emerge from the nightmare, Glass Animals stand ready to throw joyous colour over these darkest of times.