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Glass Animals’ new album a masterpiece of multimedia artistry

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

September 2, 2016

Back again to the indie scene with their sophomore album “How to Be a Human Being”  is Oxford native band, Glass Animals. Formed at the end of the same wave of “indietronica” popularity that brought the public hits from bands like Foster the People, MGMT and Passion Pit, four-piece Glass Animals serves as an exemplar of the recent influence of “trip hop” in pop music, as well as the modern revival of electronica, specifically within the context of the indie rock genre. In a burst of dual-creativity, the band plans to release music videos for each song on the album linearly, highlighting each character pictured on the album’s cover. Though it seems the backstories themselves are incredibly complex, given the videos already released for the first three singles and the lyrics of the songs themselves, longtime fans of Glass Animals are already taking the characters’ personal backgrounds many steps forward, creating websites and other various forms of representation for each one. Though it may seem over-the-top to some, this piece of what can only be described as a multimedia art narrative provides a refreshing change to the doldrum of recent indie rock productions.

 

The band’s first single, “Life Itself,” released three months prior to the album’s Aug. 26 release date, reached number 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100 back in May and has since garnered over 1,000,000 views on YouTube (a number that seems insignificant in the shadow of the website’s top-viewed hits, but is a notable achievement among “indie” artists). Starting out with a flurry of percussive strings, the song abruptly transitions to a driving, Lollywood-inspired drum rhythm that persists throughout the rest of the song, a beat that is difficult to not dance along to. Teeming with self-deprecating lines, the song also purveys the age-old stylings of teenage angst, a theme that never seems to lose its popularity despite its prevalence across nearly all genres. However, the most noteworthy part of the song is its chorus (as is usually the case). “Cut back down to my knees/ Got to get back/ Got to get free,” repeats the song, coupled with an infectious electronic groove that leaves little room to doubt why this song was chosen as the group’s first single off the new album.

 

Like many artists of the genre, Glass Animals’ lyrics imbue an overarching vibe of self-insecurity and a mix of nostalgia and condemnation of the simpler times in life, as is the case in their second single, aptly titled “Youth.” Written from the point of view of a mother talking to her son, the song explores the concept of parent-child relationships and the accompanying sense of altruistic love that is rarely found outside of this context. Featuring a darker sound than the previous single, “Youth” definitely embodies the unique sound of Glass Animals with its heavy percussion use, myriad overlaid synth rhythms and airy, high-pitched vocals by lead vocalist Dave Bayley. The most prominent features of the song, however, are its deep bassline and mock-flute rhythms. Though more lyrically diverse and involving a more coherent message, “Youth” does not have enough driving single potential as its predecessor to launch it into the realm of pop.

 

“Season 2 Episode 3,” named for being the third single on the second album, again explores relationships, this time a toxic one between two young adults. The song takes the form of an argument, going back and forth between a teenage girl (presumably the one in the music video) and her boyfriend, whom she loathes for acting like a father figure by urging her to make something of her life instead of wasting it away in front of a television screen (another reference to the format of the title). Much unlike the previous two singles, this song features a minimalist electronic rhythm supported by interspaced 8-bit sound effects. True to their psychedelic pop influence, Glass Animals likely wrote this song, with its spaced out lyrics and heavily layered synths, to go hand in hand with contemporary drug culture, giving listeners a trip even without the use of narcotics.

 

Though definitely an acquired taste to those unfamiliar with the drama, Glass Animals’ recent stylings are at the forefront of an artistic revolution from a musical standpoint. In a world where only the extraordinary and outlandish are given their 15 minutes of fame, there remain artists who continue to produce new and innovative art solely for art’s sake. With “How to Be a Human Being,” it is difficult to distance oneself not only from the addicting rhythms of the songs, but also from the quirky and often insightful characters that stem from the lyrics and minds of the creators and listener alike.

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