How significant is an album cover to the content within? In the case of Glass Animals‘ perceptive and well-thought out second album, How To Be A Human Being, it can be critical at introducing the story of the record. Aesthetically, it’s comparable with the sleeve of Yeasayer‘s Amen & Goodbye (released April Fools Day this year) except the characters on the cover are precisely the protagonists of the tracks. From the bravado man in speedos to the photographer to the anxious waitress – whom the Oxford band have already presented in the music videos to ‘Youth’ and ‘Life Itself’. It’s a project with admirable continuity and will be treasured by fanatics of storytelling.
Lead singer Dave Bayley has developed his writing skills from the otherworldly debut ZABA to write from the point of view of the album’s art characters. It’s a refreshing change from first person albums documenting lovesickness. Yet these aren’t characters plucked from thin air, they are all inspired by real people they met around the world. Either ordinary people with a fascinating story that they blindly told the band during their travels, or people that Glass Animals are fascinated with – like the Nigerian basketball player Hakeem Olajuwan from ‘The Other Side of Paradise’. Bayley created mood boards of these inspiration caricatures becoming obsessed by every detail of their lifestyle (from what their mobile phone to the car they drive) and from this evolved detailed and intoxicating lyrics.
Before you think otherwise, these aren’t Disney-like characters with good intentions but drug-addicts (‘Life Itself’, ‘Cane Shuga’) depressed voyeuristic loners (‘Agnes’) and sleazy tales of infatuation (‘Take A Slice’, ‘Poplar St’). Come to think of it, there’s always been this alluring, teasing and sensually mysterious style of singing from Dave Bayley (like an up-not-good guide leading a helpless victim into a forest), making the subject matter not too unfitting with the style of vocals.
Debut ZABA took us into deep depths of an African jungle with its percussion and rhythm. Like the concept of the album, How To Be A Human Being also has sufficient continuity production wise from the predecessor, as it still uses the distinctive tribal instrumentation but progressing the beats further into the genre of Hip-Hop. Glass Animals covered Kanye West‘s ‘Love Lockdown’ at Glastonbury 2015 and they’ve become the next band after Alt-J to fuse the genres of indie rock and Hip Hop cohesively – combining Bayley’s indie voice and ideas with Hip-Hop woofs, sticky snares, and explicit honesty.
While ZABA used non-vitreous animal noises to create its atmosphere, Glass Animals openly illustrate their journalistic approach to research by including street noise and conversations on ‘Pork Soda’, ‘Take A Slice’ to creative vapourwave effect. This is just as powerful as sounds such as the phone hang-up on ‘Poplar St’ which aim to help transform the listener into the storyteller and Glass Animals’ answer to Radiohead‘s robotic ‘Fitter Happier’, interlude ‘[Premade Sandwiches]’, which observes the banality of modern day trends with the wit of Michael McIntyre (from “new pants with holes,” to “goji berries,” and “Old phones in one drawer.”)
Ultimately, much like the retro games that Glass Animals sample on the slacker-anthem ‘Season 2 Episode 3′ (documenting the Boxset-binge epidemic sweeping the nation) and the board game borders of the album cover, it’s very fun and challenging guessing track-by-track which person on the cover the quartet are showcasing.