There is intensity. There is energy. There are a lot of electronic and pop beats. And hidden underneath all of that, there is a sense of immense nostalgia. Welcome to Dreamland, Glass Animals’ third studio album.
Instead of looking outward and exploring the lives of the people around them, the band has for the first time released an album that is entirely and unapologetically autobiographical.
Shifting from the perspectives provided in 2014’s Zaba, or 2016’s How to Be a Human Being in which each of the 11 songs is molded around a specific character, Dreamland is based on the personal lives of the four members that make up the band — Dave Bayley, Joe Seaward, Drew MacFarlane and Edmund Irwin-Singer.
The change in the band’s approach to shaping an album can be attributed to a couple of different things. Previously, Bayley had always been hesitant in writing about personal experiences as he thought that it could be considered selfish, but the final track on How to Be a Human Being, “Agnes,” possibly began the shift toward a more autobiographical approach.
“Agnes,” the last track on the album, quickly became one of its defining songs and a fan favorite. In it, Bayley opens about a friend of his who he lost to suicide. The reaction it received got Bayley thinking about exploring different avenues.
The other incident, and a quite significant one, that shaped Dreamland into what it became was the trauma that the entire band went through beginning mid-2018. Drummer Seaward was struck by a truck in Dublin while cycling and suffered a broken leg, fractured skull and severe brain damage.
The band was put on an indefinite pause as Seaward underwent rehabilitation, re-learning how to walk, talk and drum again. This gave the band another perspective on its music, providing another push to look inwards for inspiration, resulting in the lyrical side of Dreamland relaying Bayley’s memories going as far back as early childhood.
The entire album as a whole takes you on a long, winding trip down memory lane, with hard-hitting songs about Bayley’s memories and recording of home movies peppered in throughout, his mum’s voice coming through in-between songs.
It’s not always a happy memory, though. “Domestic Bliss” has Bayley recounting accounts of his friend’s mother being in an abusive relationship, with lyrics like “I see the bruise, I see the truth, I see what he did to you” being sung over buzzing synths and humming electricity. The entire song does a great job of putting the listener at unease, making them pay attention to the lyrics.
“Space Ghost Coast To Coast” is about a friend Bayley had while growing up in the States, only to lose touch with him when the singer moved to England. Over pulsating beats, the friendship is revisited. Bayley talks about the things he would do as a child with his friend and contemplates what it would be like if they were to meet again after all this time.
At the risk of sounding like a cliche, Glass Animals provides the audience with a rollercoaster of emotions. There is so much to be felt throughout the album, be it happy, sad, upbeat, morose, hopeful, anything. Even in the saddest of moments, though, there is a beauty to be found. These are not the emotions of the band that have been plainly offloaded onto the listeners as a burden, it is a journey each and every fan has taken along with the band, moving from one song to the next.
It’s a journey of growth and change for the band as well, with obvious changes made in their sounds. The traditional psych-pop and electronic beats that were involved in their breakthrough song, “Gooey,” have been somewhat muted to make room for more rap and hip-hop influences. Partnering up with Denzel Curry for “Tokyo Drifting,” working behind the scenes with Joey Bada$$, 6lack and Wale and even bringing in Dr. Dre’s apprentice Derek Ali for “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” it’s clear to see that the band is not set on having the same sounds every time and there is always space to change.
From the synth sequence at the beginning of “Dreamland,” the album’s title track, to the almost-same-but-slightly different sequence on the last song, “Helium,” the album comes a full circle. A neat and tidy package for the fans to listen and re-listen, picking up new things at each pass-through.
If there is one person and/or band that successfully packs complicated, gut-wrenching and even heartbreaking memories into its music, that too almost seamlessly, it’s Glass Animals. I am personally so happy that Bayley and the band found the courage to showcase their past in such a magical, emotional, brooding yet upbeat way. I have waited four years since 2016 for a new album to drop, and I have to say, it was so worth the wait.
You can view all Dreamland music videos and home movies here.
Dreamland is available to stream on all platforms here.