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Fresh Tunes of 2016: "How to Be a Human Being" by the Glass Animals [album review]

In Glass Animals’ second album, How to Be a Human Being, the band takes risks in both sound and construction, and they largely pay off in a most satisfying end-of-Summer album.  Following their breakthrough album, Zaba, in 2014, it would have been all too easy to simply continue the primal jungle beats that propelled them from Oxford, England to the international stage. Instead they ventured into new territory as artists, and opted for a more synth heavy, character driven, concept album that above all else is a fun ride for the listener.

Dave Bayley (singer/guitarist/writer) cites an assortment of characters he actually met while on tour as the inspiration for this album. Each of these figures are featured on the album cover, directly correlating to a single song.  It’s an interesting concept, and those who tend to dig through lyrics will enjoy putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  The freedom from this kind of album formation is put to good use, as they are able to jump around the emotional spectrum with unique perspectives regardless of the band's own age, gender, and background.

Sporting strange sounds from the gruff barks in “The Other Side of Paradise,” to borderline incoherent vocals in “Cane Shuga,”each song feels as different as the inspiring album cover characters look. Some of the beats would be right at home in a hip hop song. Others are rooted by more traditional rock structure.  It is a collage of cultural influences, and incredibly reflective of the times with casual references to Adventure Time, Kurt Vonnegut, and more.  While no single line may ever capture the inherent coolness of “Peanut butter vibes” from their first album, strong contenders in “Pineapples are in my head” and “You fly like Kim Jung’s Rockets” do make their case by sheer bizarre catchiness.  

Glass Animals in How to Be a Human Being dodged the dreaded sophomore slump, and delivers an album brimming with raw emotion, energy, and inventiveness.  While it may be too early to tell if it surpasses Zaba, it most certainly is in the same weight class.  To those who enjoy indie/pop/electronic, this album will serve as a seamless transition from Summer to Fall vibes.

Standouts:

  • “Season 2 Episode 3”
  • “Pork Soda"
  • “Cane Shuga”
  • “The Other Side of Paradise”
  • “Agnes”