Glass Animals have always communicated through a series of prisms, filtering through thoughts and emotions thoroughly before it reaches their fans. Sure, their work – particularly elements of 2016’s ‘How To Be A Human Being’ - have veered towards the personal, but rarely explicitly so.
‘Dreamland’ though, is different. Opening with its title track – a kind of aesthetic and personal manifesto – it’s both bold and wide open, the sound of Dave Bayley utterly baring his soul, laying it all out there. It’s riveting, frank, and honest, merging their classic tendencies – think ‘Pet Sounds’ era Beach Boys – with a fondness for the plastic futurism of peak era Timbaland.
There’s a lot to discuss. Glass Animals are still largely adjusting to fame, and their balance was thrown in question when drummer Joe Seaward suffered a devastating accident in Dublin. Called to his bedside, the sheer shock pushed songwriter Dave Bayley into survival mode, escaping to Los Angeles for a lengthy series of wholly immersive sessions.
Somehow, ‘Dreamland’ came into focus. Retrieving his ideas and returning to East London, it’s ultimately a very English art-pop record, more Tears For Fears than Taylor, more Metronomy than Miley.
‘Tangerine’ is a glorious pop bouncer, driven forward by those preening, effects-laden vocals, a kind of ultra-reserved Prince falsetto. A superbly designed project, the album is given its structure by a series of interludes, brief vignettes that offer escapes into memory before the main song narrative plunges into trauma.
‘Hot Sugar’ experiences fear in attraction, while the hopelessly beautiful ‘Waterfalls Coming Out Of Your Mouth’ is a gorgeous experience. The shocked, stunned feel on ‘It’s All Incredibly Loud’ is the sound of a band attempting to move forwards in the light of life-changing events, while ‘Heat Waves’ - already subject to a viral performance clip – is a stunningly effective pop song.
A record that balances its need for fresh innovation with an adherence to melody, ‘Dreamland’ becomes a nexus, a meeting point for Glass Animals to outline these internal conversations. It feels as though the band have stripped down the barriers, exposing the chassis underneath, the internal machinery.
A brave and ultimately bold move, it’s hugely effective – direct yet sumptuously nuanced, ‘Dreamland’ is a triumph.
Words: Robin Murray
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