The sun is hot, the campuses are filled with moving vans and U-Hauls, and of all things, earthquakes rattle southwest Virginia. Summer is coming to an end, and with only a few weeks left of summer vacation before Virginia Tech students return for a semester unlike any other, there’s still enough time to hear some new jams and to discover new groups popping up on the radar. It’s the time of the year for venturing out, musically if not physically, and this latest dive into the unknown has revealed the Glass Animals, an English pop group from Oxford, who released their third album, “Dreamland” on Aug. 7, on Wolf Tone records. This newest effort from these relative newcomers to the musical scene reveals a band with commendable command of pop composition and melody; a band with talent to spare and no shyness about it.
“Dreamland” is Glass Animals’ third album, and is something of a synthesis of the textures and techniques the band has been playing with since the beginning. Their debut, “Zaba”, was a phenomenal faux-exotic soundscape drawing on African rhythms and themes, while their sophomore effort, “How to Be a Human Being” was a more traditional synthpop album that nonetheless garnered appropriate praise. “Dreamland” finds the connections between these two previous efforts, exhibiting the group’s tight melodic sensibilities alongside cleverly inventive compositional strategies.
An immediate standout right at the beginning of the album is the second track, “Tangerine”, which perfectly balances the listenable qualities of a pop song with the group’s more artful tendencies. In a similar vein is the track “Hot Sugar”, which is slightly more laidback, drawing ever so slightly on the modern synthwave trend of intentionally retro sounding synthesizers, allowing the song to come together as an almost immaculately chill jam.
The sixth track, “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” makes things a bit weirder in more ways than one (the reference to the Adult Swim parody of the sixties seems to be tangential at best), but it still forms a more or less seamless listening experience with the aforementioned tracks, which take up the bulk of the album’s first half. The album does slow down slightly through the middle section, but the content of the front half is more than enough to recommend regardless.
For such a young band, Glass Animals has garnered quite an impressive catalogue of songs. Their songwriting abilities are strong and they have proven their ability to compose agreeably poppy tunes to back up their lyrics. The experimentation with tone and content between their three albums so far shows that Glass Animals are willing to expand their pallet and to venture outward with their style. If conjecture is anything to go by, that means that Glass Animals may very well continue to surprise listeners for years to come. Their debut was released in 2014, making Glass Animals an exceptionally young band by modern standards, and hopefully they have plans to slow down their output. One gets the feeling that “Dreamland” is merely a taste of what Glass Animals is capable of, and while it is not perfect, the highs it contains make it a worthy recommendation. I give “Dreamland” three and a half out of five stars.