REVIEW: Let Glass Animals’ latest album be your quarantine soundtrack
Story and photo | Kat Hemming
I hadn’t listened to a single new album during quarantine.
Not Chromatica, or Fetch the Bolt Cutters, or How I’m Feeling Now. I didn’t want to associate the music with this indescribably horrible time in my life.
Instead, I sat in my Brooklyn apartment listening only to the wail of ambulance sirens as the pandemic raged through the spring. In early summer, the sirens were replaced with the droning of NYPD helicopters directly overhead when the protests began.
When Glass Animals released Dreamland on Aug. 7, I caved. Shortly after midnight, I closed my bedroom door, turned off the lights and laid down with my headphones on. The band provided whimsical listening notes on their website, which I highly recommend following. It enhances the immersive experience of listening to the album — and it’s an excuse to eat snacks.
The band’s third album, and their first in four years, Dreamland, is a sonic and lyrical escape from reality and the band’s most personal work yet. Following a 2018 accident in which drummer Joe Seaward was hit by a truck while riding his bike, frontman Dave Bayley felt compelled to be more introspective and personal with his lyrics.
On Dreamland, Bayley digs deep into his past, especially his childhood, to take the listener on a 45-minute journey with him.
The title track sets the tone for the rest of the album — in fact, the hook is repeated in the album’s closing track, albeit in a different key.
On the second verse, he sings: “You’ve had too much of the digital love. You want everything live, you want things you can touch,” a sentiment which is all too relatable in 2020. Prior to this year, being so digital and so online was a choice. Now, it’s the only way we can connect with one another.
Interspersed between the songs are audio clips from Bayley’s childhood home movies, featuring his mother’s voice. My favorite chunk of the album is sandwiched between two of these clips, beginning with the one-two punch of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and “Tokyo Drifting.”
During my first listen, it was these two songs that made me sit up from staring at my ceiling and actually feel something. The infectious bass line of “Space Ghost” and the rap feature by Denzel Curry on “Tokyo Drifting” reminded me that fun still existed. After months of growing numb to the horrors of the world, I felt something other than dread.
With the warm night air drifting in my open window and purple string lights twinkling along the window frame, I felt like myself again. There’s no listening note for “Tokyo Drifting,” but my note would read: “have an extra White Claw then dance in front of your mirror.”
This middle section of the album closes with the latest single, “It’s All So Incredibly Loud.” Sonically, it’s a throwback to the electronic, tropical percussion and crescendos of 2014’s Zaba, slowly building to an abrupt finale. The lyrics perfectly mirror the instrumentation — the rushing thoughts before delivering bad news and then, suddenly, silence.
The melancholy duo of “Domestic Bliss,” depicting a child’s perspective of domestic violence, and “Heat Waves,” a hazy tune on loss and longing, bring you back down to earth before the closer, “Helium.”
In the same way that “Dreamland” mapped the landscape of the album, “Helium” poetically reasserts that this is an album about connection. As Bayley writes in the storyline notes on Spotify, “it’s relationships…that make us real.” In a time when we feel so isolated, Dreamland reminds us that we’re never truly alone.