Saturday, August 29, 2020

Glass Animals: Dreamland - Review

Glass Animals: Dreamland Album Review | Pitchfork

As the album title would suggest, this buoyant and at times hypnotic album offers the kind of airy psychedelic pop that one might describe as “dreamlike”. But Glass Animals do not offer simple dreamy aesthetics. The title track proves that the term is not perfunctory. Dreamland is a strange kaleidoscopic sanctuary, a place where you can return to the simple joys of a long-lost youth. The dreams that fill this land are memories of innocence and pain, of a youth filled with 2000’s R&B and “watermelon juice kisses”. 

The inspiration from the album comes from a traumatic experience; frontman Dave Bayley reflected on his life after the bands drummer Joe Seaward was involved in a near fatal accident. As a means to cope with the ordeal, Bayley reverted back to childhood memories (the first lines of the album brilliantly introduce this nostalgia trip; “Pulling down backstreets deep in your head, slipping through dreamland like a tourist”). Bayley claims his influences for the album are a melange of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, classic hip hop and 808 bass. The mix of these inspirations would already create an interesting soundscape, but the real ingenuity of the album comes from the autobiographical references. 

The Dr Dre-esque “Space Ghost Coast To Coast” namedrops “Pokemon” and throws out lines like “Capri Sun, straw in the bottom” while the playful and sun drenched “Tangerine” mentions Mr Miyagi, the mentor from The Karate Kid. While these seemingly random allusions to late 90s culture may seem jarring at first, they create a personality to the album that gives it considerable charm (the real life “home movie” interludes that are injected between the tracks are poignant in the way that they shape the albums themes of innocence and experience). 

Listening to the album in its entirety garners a real emotional investment and appeal.

Bayley’s skills as a songwriter elevate the content into strange and unique territories. On “Melon and The Coconut” (perhaps the albums most surreal moment) he sings of a faltering romantic relationship between the two pieces of fruit, claiming that every fruit has its own personality. Despite the absurdity of the premise, Bayley writes the lyrics with straight forward sincerity (“when it all started I thought we would grow old, living in the city with a baby and a dog”).

The production on the album must also be praised (Bayley acted as producer along with Adele stalwart, Paul Epworth). The home video interludes mix perfectly with both bouncy synth beats, the pent-up hip hop of Tokyo Drifting (featuring Denzel Curry, the only collaboration on the album) and the laid back chillwave of “Heat Wave”. The sounds are crisp and alluring for the most part, although the angst breaks free on a few tracks, namely “It’s All So Incredibly Loud”, a reference to the three seconds that precede bad news being given. The track builds until that climactic moment, the synths and drum loop acting as a torrent of pain while Bayley repeats the line “whispers would deafen me now… heartbreak was never so loud.”

The album is bookended by the final track, “Helium”, claiming “you want the backstreets, you don’t want me”. Sometimes we do revert to the backstreets of our memories over the harsh truths that lurk in our present reality. We visit Dreamland as a means of coping with life. But as much as this album is concerned with nostalgia, it is the future of Glass Animals career that offers the most intrigue.

- Josh Lambi


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