‘Dreamland’ looks to the past, bares Glass Animals’ soul

Glass Animals
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Grade: 3.5/5.0

British psychedelic pop band Glass Animals has kept us all waiting for fresh music — and with good reason. After a devastating accident that left the band unsure of whether or not it would be able to make a new album, Glass Animals have bounced back with conviction for their third album, Dreamland, released Aug. 7. From the record’s grounding in its vaporwave-themed album art to the blend of hip-hop and electronic music scattered throughout, Dreamland is a testament to the determination, creativity and ambition that the band possesses.

The title track acts as a table of contents for the album, essentially summing it up and ushering listeners into a world of reflective nostalgia on a cloud. From then on, each song tells a story, a sprawling dive into frontman Dave Bayley’s formative years. It’s a cute concept that serves the band well, making for a significantly more personal album in the same vein of “Agnes” off of 2016’s How To Be a Human Being, about a close friend Bayley lost to suicide.

From the bright opening synths and childlike fascination on “Tangerine” to the droning bass and swanky rhythm on “Hot Sugar,” Glass Animals present something instrumentally diverse but also chronologically expansive. The album is raw and personal, filled with reminiscing lyrics and emotional commentary. But the most cohesive element of Dreamland  is the record’s abundance of ’90s nostalgia, with references ranging from Dr. Dre and Doom, to Scooby-Doo and Froot Loops. 

“Tokyo Drifting” and “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” also share the same deep, permeating bass found across Dreamland, taken up a notch with immersing, catchy hooks. These songs shift from the light airiness found at the start of the album to intense, beat-driven realizations. Bayley even refers to “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” as a “conflicted booty-call anthem.” The two tracks almost feel out of place, as though the band were commercializing its sound, but the songs ultimately still fit the record because they embody its unifying message of the importance of personal reflection.

“Tokyo Drifting” in particular stands out on the record as a heavy, rap-inclusive track, with Bayley assuming his persona of “Wavey Davey.” Rapper Denzel Curry’s guest appearance adds a new dimension to the song, making concrete the hip-hop influence wafting around the album.

Despite the dazzle of other high-energy songs on the album, however, “Heat Waves” takes the cake for the best song, encapsulating the catchiness from 2014’s Zaba and How To Be a Human Being. It sports an insanely rich and moving beat, as well as dreamy, somber lyrics that fit in with the theme of missing the past despite the need to move on.

How To Be a Human Being was Glass Animals’ most relatable release, somehow touching even though it intended to be a character study and had little connection to the band members’ own lives. Zaba found the band commercial success, spawning hits such as “Gooey” and “Toes.” Dreamland, meanwhile, is the best of both  — though that’s not to say that it’s definitively better than the two previous releases. The one thing Dreamland leaves to be desired is more songs that match the emotion in the lyrics to the emotion in the melody. The hooks on a few songs aren’t quite as catchy as they could be, and every song doesn’t have the star quality of the hard hitters such as “Heat Waves” and “Tokyo Drifting.”

Though it’s uncertain if Dreamland is meant to weave a story or if it is just pieced from random memories from Bayley’s past, the Glass Animals frontman is certainly laying everything out there. Rather than present one cohesively woven tale, the band evokes a sense of nostalgia for one’s childhood and the good ol’ days. The layout of the album is effective in that sense, simulating how we think about our cherished memories, and should be appreciated for the effort it makes to emulate this nostalgia. 

Dreamland, to say the least, is an arsenal of dance-worthy, tear-jerking and nostalgic tunes. And best of all, listening to the album is more visceral than just reminiscing on your own.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.