It feels like yesterday that I was writing my ‘Summer psyche’ post, and yet, here we are, slowly but surely creeping towards the end of the holidays. After a few blissful months, September has arrived, meaning it’s now time to be organised and productive, and take care of those last-minute issues that my mum’s been nagging me to get done all Summer. I’m sure I’m not alone. Or maybe I am, and I just made myself sound like a mahoosive loser. Remember kids, there is nothing loser-like about being organised.
Here to save us from the doom and gloom of back-to-school blues are the wonderfully refreshing, Glass Animals, and their new, alternative-synth-pop album, How to be a Human Being, which they released at the beginning of this month. The Oxford-based quartet are fairly undervalued, even though their first album back in 2014, Zaba, was a delicious and gooey delight that left its fans hungry for more sweet treats. Thank the heavens above, their new material is equally yummy.
They’ve managed to maintain the exotic sound that was present in Zaba, thanks to layering synths and some unusual funky instruments. Life Itself, which was the first single to be released from the album, not only features an epic chorus (a necessity if your song is to be a roaring success), but also a seriously groovy intro. We’ve got a steel-string guzheng (think Chinese music), some tribal drums and some sort of sleigh bells within the first ten seconds of the song. It’s experimental and the cowbell team are digging it. Youth has a similar ethnic vibe, but is paired with a smoother, more euphoric sound, rather like when you combine mango with passion fruit. Refreshing, sweet and so good for you.
What sets this album apart from anything else that they’ve done, is the sheer creative depth of each and every song. Lead singer and frontman, Dave Bayley, recorded conversations with random folk that he met whilst touring for Zaba, and from these recordings created intricate characters. In a post on the bands’ Facebook page, Bayley wrote:
“I started obsessing about the way people told stories. what people talk about, what they exaggerate, what they leave out, what the story actually means, and what all of that said about who they were as people. It all made me want to create my own characters and my own stories and hide a little bit of myself in each one.”
He also posted, “You can dance to and smoke ERB to and make sweet love to, our new record”, which isn’t at all relevant to the topic of discussion but I thought such promotion could not go uncelebrated. I digress from the main point which is, each and every song has its own personality, both lyrically and in its tone, which makes you connect with all of the songs so much more because the character behind each one is so intriguing. It makes for seriously unrefined yet cool lyrics like, ‘She said I look fat but I look fantastic’, which is a cracking line and secretly relatable. They’re also just damn catchy.
For example, Season 2 Episode 3, sounds like the sonic theme tune to a computer game which is totally the point. Bayley sings about that stereotypical slacker that does nothing all day, just sits at home ‘in clothes you’ve worn for three days over, with a cookie as a coaster’. It’s got a playful vibe, full of nerdy, irregular sounds. Compare that with Poplar St, a personal favorite which comes towards the end of the album, and the tone is completely different. This one swings more towards alternative rock than any of the other songs, with a badass guitar riff featuring heavily throughout the song. Here, the lyrics describe the character of ‘Mrs Moore’, the seductive lady who lives across the street who wears ‘lower cuts than most and red lipstick’. The way the song starts, with an air of tranquility which gradually builds up and becomes more intense, plays with the idea of a loss of innocence, and memories from your childhood becoming tainted as you grow older.
From the way I’ve described it, you’d think that the album is a total mismatch of songs that are all polar opposites, but how wrong you are. The signature Glass Animals sound, comprised of sticky beats and layers of weird and wonderful synths, is present everywhere. Particularly in songs like Take A Slice, The Other Side of Paradise and Pork Soda, which have a laid-back beat which allows Baley’s dreamy voice to glide through the air over them. It’s honestly so dreamy that at times you mistake it for a soulful female’s voice. I swear that is a compliment.
So if you are struggling to cling on to those last few weeks of Summer, hopefully this album’s magical properties will help lift your spirits. It’s also worth paying a visit to the band’s blog, http://glassanimalsband.tumblr.com/, where they’ve created a page for each song to help listeners identify the characters. Even if you’re not interested, some of the pictures would not go amiss on your Tumblr page or even your Instagram if you’re feeling Insta-glam.
Enjoy the last few weeks of freedom my friends,