2 years since Glass Animals‘ exotic-come-dance debut album ‘ZABA’ hit the shelves, they’re back with their second album How to be a Human Being. Since 2014’s release of ‘ZABA’, Glass Animals have toured extensively, playing over 150 shows in 2015 alone, and have bestowed upon the music industry some rather funky tracks, including a collaboration with Joey Bada$$. Acting as an audio recollection of the band’s experiences of touring, their latest offering most definitely exerts and exemplifies the diversity observed by the band on their journeys round both of the hemispheres.
Tracks like Life Itself (that we reviewed a few weeks back) and Mama’s Gun take on influences of world music – with lead singer Dave Bayley stating that with this album his lyrical approach was “like a screenwriter might approach a script … [as] ideas came from live recordings of people saved on [his] phone”, echoing the globalised vibe prominent throughout this LP.
In every corner of How to be a Human Being, hip-hop elements are found as Glass Animals utilise their trademark reliance on percussion for atmospheric and ethereal songs like Youth, courtesy of members Drew, Edmund & Joe. Youth holds Bayley’s traversing vocals making for a hypnotising and transcendental not-quite-4-minute sensation. Further into the LP, songs like Pork Soda, and Cane Shuga make use of the bands dance roots crossed with their new-found exotic stylings, as they show a definite step away from the topical tropicality of ‘ZABA’, to a late-night, slow-grooving, percussion heavy album.
How to be a Human Being, lyrically, provides a genuine homely and intimate atmosphere; in Season 2 Episode 3 Bayley’s penchant for whisper-like vocals rings through as he recites “My girl eats mayonnaise from a jar when she’s getting blazed / … Lazy and laying on your belly … / In clothes you’ve worn for 3 days over”, forming a heartwarming ode to the subject. Notably, in the dreamy track Poplar St., the reflective and introverted lyrics make for a nice transparency in comparison to the consistent metaphoric lyrics shown in ‘ZABA’.
Psychedelia is also a key feature in this album, as in the track Take A Slice, Glass Animals incorporate shredding pedal-heavy guitar licks. In closing track Agnes, swirling vocals and relaxing instrumentals create an air of nostalgia and other-worldliness, as Agnes forms an ascending and celestial stand-out track from an innovative and triumphant sophomore album.
Glass Animals are renowned for their unorthodox musical style, which is clear from early EP ‘Leaflings’ straight through to How to be a Human Being. Their debut ‘ZABA’ was topical and opaque, their EPs follow suit. But, with‘How to be a Human Being, Glass Animals propel themselves onto another level with an astounding, mind-bending, and at times heart-warming and heart-breaking insight into the experiences of a band at their peak, accompanied by peculiar idiosyncrasies of one of music’s most underrated gems.
Words by Jasmin Robinson