Album of the Week: Glass Animals, 'How To Be A Human Being'

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Glass Animals, 'How to Be a Human Being'
Glass Animals, 'How to Be a Human Being' (Harvest Records)

How do you get to know someone? You ask questions and you listen to the stories of their life. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from one seemingly simple story. Glass Animals' frontman Dave Bayley really pays attention when someone tells him a story. In fact, he may have been secretly recording you while you were telling it to him. Since his last album, Zaba, came out, Bayley spent the time on tour with Glass Animals. He realized everyone he was bumping into (taxi drivers, fans, stage hands) were sharing little pieces of themselves with him, and he started collecting them. While listening back to the stories, he found himself creating backstories, histories, names — full lifetimes of experiences. With these fully developed characters in mind, he wrote the songs of their lives for the new Glass Animals' album, How To Be A Human Being.

For their first album, Glass Animals weren't a band so much as a project that Bayley created by turning inward and pouring out his thoughts (in all their complicated glory) into a swirling mix of his favorite musical genres — hip hop, trip hop, R&B, and the rumbling sounds he imagined while letting his mind wander. This time around, Glass Animals are focused more on the external "realness" of the world. The characters who inhabit these songs are down-to-Earth: spending far too much time binging on television, ("Season 2 Episode 3"), overly focused on their diet ("Premade Sandwiches"), lamenting a relationship that is waning ("Pork Soda"), or trying to keep it together after being left behind ("The Other Side of Paradise").

While lyrically How To Be A Human Being is more linear and story-driven than Zaba, the sonic experimentation is still front and center. Found sounds flicker in and out throughout as though the characters are breaking the fourth wall to tell their own story. While singing from the point of view of a mother who gave up her son in "Youth," Bayley sings in a light and lilting falsetto with a gentle dance beat and billowing chorus wrapping around the words. The television clicks, Nintendo bleeps and bloops, with a futuristic R&B chillout vibe for "Season 2 Episode 1" help tell the story of lazy days on the couch "eating mayonnaise from the jar." In an interview with Paste Magazine, Bayley said that he created 30 different voices to build up the cacophony of doubt that you hear in your head for "Pork Soda."

With so many different characters, each with an entirely different story to tell, this could be a really disjointed album. Glass Animals, however, deftly weave the sounds together to make the sum bigger than the individual pieces. The songs showcase Bayley's ability to translate specific human hopes and fears into universally relateable vignettes.

Resources

Glass Animals - official site

Glass Animals, 'How To Be A Human Being' (Amazon, CD)

Glass Animals, 'How To Be A Human Being' (Amazon, Vinyl)

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