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Album Review // GLASS ANIMALS ‘Dreamland’

Marrying surreal soundscapes with down-to-earth lyricism, Dreamland is a masterpiece in creativity that cements Glass Animals as one of the most exciting bands on the alternative scene.

Glass Animals Dreamland 2020

British quartet Glass Animals have had quite the journey with their third album; hot on the heels of the success of their sophomore album How To Be A Human Being, which was nominated for a Mercury Prize, it comes as no surprise that emotions were high-strung and intense. Amidst this backdrop, the band’s drummer Joe Seaward was involved in a bike accident that nearly claimed his life in the summer of 2018, marking a dramatic turning point not only for Joe personally, but also for the band as their future looked poised to shatter at any given moment. Born out of these marking experiences, Dreamland charts not only the confusion and emotional upheaval experienced by frontman Dave Bayley during this period of great uncertainty, but goes back even further into childhood memories and moments that defined his adolescent development. Unlike the band’s first two albums, which focused on the external world, Dreamland is unashamedly more intimate and almost autobiographical in nature, offering a never-before-seen perspective into some of Dave’s most personal thoughts.

Opener Dreamland sets the tone for swathes of hazy, electro-pop that will continue to define much of the work to come. Elevating listeners into a realm of surreality through sugar-sweet electronic melodies, the ardent string accompaniment underscoring the track anchors a blossoming warmth for Dave’s dreamy falsetto to float atop. Yet underneath this cotton-candy sonic are lyrics that do not shy away from the tainted human nature, hitting out at the unrealistic desires that we hold and our impossible expectations of all those around us. Turning to a much more playful vibe in Tangerine, the light, flickering beats channel a boyish charm that you cannot help but give into.

The more brooding Space Ghost Coast To Coast grapples with the topic of school shootings, and the confusion that arises when the tragedy is committed by someone you once knew. Not exactly your typical moral dilemma, yet Dave manages to convey these mental challenges in an accessible way through hammering beats that pulse ominously. And it is precisely the manner in which Dave faces difficult topics in Dreamland and transforms it into a medium accessible to listeners that makes it such a compelling album. The deceptively named Domestic Bliss discusses abusive domestic relationships, and especially the confusion from third parties as Dave sings ‘I see what he’s been doin’ to you / Why’d you put up with that shit?’. Presenting a scenario that isn’t easy for any of the parties involved, Dave’s ability to morph it into a gripping piece of music can help begin the process of working through the trauma, and shed light upon the complexities for those who thankfully have not gone through it.

Packed with effortless production and slick synths, Dreamland is truly a commendable piece of work in both its musical and lyrical genius. Pushing at the boundaries of conformity and comfort, Glass Animals share their own unique input whilst simultaneously providing a sense of solidarity in the relatable content. Embracing their individuality and the distinctive curveballs thrown towards them, Glass Animals work from the intimate to the universal and offer a guideline to all those who are happy to join them along the journey as we all attempt to make sense of the confusion known as life.