Album Notes - Glass Animals - Dreamland
Glass Animals' How to Be a Human Being still stands as my favorite album of 2016. Four long years later the Dave Bayley-led quartet is back to share their unique blend of R&B and hip hop-infused indie pop. While Human Being was centered on the premise of each song representing a different person, here on the brand new Dreamland, it's all Dave's world, all the time.
The album's title is as musically accurate as its predecessor's was lyrically. Dreamland frequently takes on a floating-like quality, aided by hints of Caribbean vibes sprinkled into the formula the band has been perfecting since their 2014 debut. The results are dreamy for sure. The main difference between Human Being and Dreamland lies in the subject matter. Oh, don't worry, Bayley still has a thing for fruit. Previously it was pineapples in his head, and now it's melons, coconuts, apricots, and tangerines. While nature's candy remains at the forefront of Bayley's reverie, his nostalgia for the '90s is thicker than any juice on Dreamland. The lyrics often read like the greatest hits of a Buzzfeed '90s listicle: Dunkaroos, GoldenEye 007 ("007 Nintendo James"), Geo Metros, Michael Jordan (assist from Denzel Curry), and naturally, Dr. Dre. Hell, even the album's front and back covers look like a pastiche of era-specific objects displayed in the CPU capabilities of the decade's average arcade game.
With nostalgia at an all-time high, it's fitting that Bayley's work would reflect the pervading sentimentality. While a wistful longing for days prior can be limiting, that is not what prevents Dreamland from reaching the heights of Human Being: it's the relative lack of stylistic diversity. Bayley's combined love of turn of the century hip hop and flowery pop provides both intrigue and melodrama as Dreamland occasionally gets caught up in being defined by its own sense of self. As opposed to blazing previously unpaved trails, this third time around sees Bayley relying on sounds borne out by others before.
I can't blame the man for the route taken here. This is still a fantastic record, one that I'll be listening to frequently in the near future. And it's certainly not an insult to say that it can't match How to Be a Human Being; that bar is high. I just hope that Dave returns to pushing the envelope, rather than peering too far back into the days of youth we are all guilty of romanticizing.
BONUS: Check out the live, solo performance of "Heat Waves", which sounds downright Jeff Buckley-like and puts an entirely different spin on the song. Love it.