Music Reviews

Glass Animals Dreamland

(Wolf Tone Records/Universal) Buy it from Insound Rating - 4/10

As a human being, it’s doubtful one thinks about the band Glass Animals that much. They’re a group that registers, if only for a moment, on your consciousness as slightly more annoying than the rest of the Background Indie Spotify playlist you put on. They’ll deliver a solid midday set for Firefly Music Festival, competing with other forgettable indietronica bands across the campsite. At the very least, they aren’t as juvenile as AJR or as tiring as Twenty One Pilots. They’ll fit right in next to Sir Sly, Saint Motel, Purity Ring, and all of those other indie startups you forgot about. I’m sure they’ve got some serious fans somewhere.

Their latest album answers a question that no one asked: what would happen if a group like Glass Animals traded in their anonymousness for the exhaustion of Twenty One Pilots, the juvenility of AJR, and the very online stylings of vaporwave—all mixed in with dated, headache-inducing hip-hop textures? Dreamland is a hazy, nostalgic treatise on how growing up in the 1990s (and the virtual age) can shape a musician. The internet is a subject I’ve always been interested in when it appears in music—see 100 Gecs’ hyperpop mania—but Glass Animals have made the biggest mistake possible. For an album about the exhaustion of growing up in the shadow of digitality, they make little to no effort to open up on these themes.

Singer-songwriter Dave Bayley seems to understand this is a hard topic to tackle. In addition to outlining the album's themes in highlighter via different promo activities, Bayley seems to think that overexplaining himself is what his lyrics need. That’s why the opener has lines about “[having] too much of the digital love,” or how someone “had a gun on the first day of high school,” all of which builds up to very little of note. It feels like he’s just listing off random details of what it’s like to be a 90s kid on Tangerine, which starts off with a reference to Mr. Miyagi and only gets lamer from there. If all you ever wanted in music was an album that describes something as “[going] so Pete Tong,” the show Friends, Dr. Dre, and '007 Nintendo Games, well, Glass Animals sure deliver.

Those last two aforementioned references come from Space Ghost Coast to Coast, a perfect example of why this band should have stayed forgettable. The song takes the most uncomfortable parts of the group’s last albums, whether that be ploppy percussion or ridiculous synth tones, and pairs it to pitch-shifted vocals and trap percussion. It’s a formula that appears throughout Dreamland, only emphasizing what a strained and unpleasant combination of textures this is. The arrangements sound the strongest on Heat Waves, a late album diversion from sustained mediocrity. Despite the amount of effort that appears at the surface, from the several websites to the layered and unique production, Dreamland is a project that’s as momentarily annoying as it is infinitely forgettable.