Drenched in warm, honeyed vocals and tunes referencing heatwaves and tropical fruit,Glass Animals return with a timely pairing for the sweltering August weather: Dreamland.
When the future is uncertain, turn to the past — at least that’s what the Oxford natives’ frontman Dave Bayley did after the band’s drummer, Joe Seaward, was in a serious cycling accident in 2018. Suffering a brain injury and broken leg, Seaward had to relearn how to walk, talk and read again; but as witnessed in our show review in February, he’s made a full recovery. It was during this uncertain time that Bayley looked to his past and pulled from fond memories to create a collection of woozy, tropical tunes that make up the band’s third album, Dreamland.
On-and-off again lockdowns have made everyone nostalgic and glued to their phones, which is why Glass Animals asks you to disconnect and take a trip down memory lane and recall warm, fuzzy thoughts. “Pulling down backstreets deep in your head / Slippin thru dreamland like a tourist,” sings Bayley on the title track, inviting listeners to sit back, relax, and journey through his fluid and vibrant thoughts. It’s a different tone than the band’s past albums, but then again, the band has grown up and evolved since their last record dropped in 2016. Like a lullaby, the track rocks you along with its Bayley’s soft vocals humming sweet nothings against a twinkly bassline and gentle steel drums.
Once listeners have made themselves at home in the world of Dreamland, Bayley’s unfiltered subconscious appears (often in a stream of consciousness) as he explores past relationships, coming of age stories, and general observations about life. It’s refreshing to learn more about Bayley’s life, given their sophomore album How to Be a Human Being told imaginary people’s stories. In typical Glass Animals fashion, ‘Tangerine’ is an electro-pop tune with a bouncy bassline and club track-essence that invites you to dance along as Bayley looks back at an old flame, begging “I wish I could show you more of yourself / I wish I could make you somebody else.” Elsewhere, he’s vulnerable and apologetic in ‘It’s All So Incredibly Loud’ as he shares, “Ooh, I’m breakin’ down / Whispers would deafen me now.”
Despite the slower start, the quartet dives into more gritty electro-pop on ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast,’ fiery rap featuring Denzel Curry on ‘Tokyo Drifting,’ or in the case of fast-paced ‘Melon and Coconut,’ autotuned almost distorted-like vocals. There’s an eclectic mix on the record, often tied together with a punchy, zany twist or some more R&B elements. There’s a welcomed 90’s influence that’s been made into something modern, combining Bayley’s childhood memories with more current affairs. But at times, the record can feel somehow both repetitive yet mismatched, even with the help of the three ‘Home Movie’ interludes that are meant to break up the record.
There are plenty of standouts on the record, but they tend to be pre-released singles like ‘Heat Waves’ or ‘Your Love (Déjà Vu).’ For fans of Glass Animals, there’s something for everyone — from their electric dance numbers to emotive dream-pop ballads like closing track ‘Helium Melloness.’ What’s really missing from Dreamland is a magnetic, catchy number like their 2014 hit, ‘Gooey,’ or moving, heartbreaking song like ‘Agnes’ to round out the album. Still, Dreamland is quintessential Glass Animals by being upbeat and imaginative, but it just lacks a bit more clarity.
Dreamland is released this Friday, August 7th and is available to pre-order and pre-save now.