Too often, acts struggle to find a quality sound on their sophomore release that meets both the changing tastes and influences of the band members, but also tries to meet the demands of the fans they won over with their first release and any potential new fans that may be out there. For an act like Glass Animals, their second album How To Be a Human Being is a prime example of a LP that delicately balances the act of creating something entirely new, while trying to be faithful to the sound they created with their debut LP, ZABA.
Bursting onto the scene a couple years back with their sleek and slinky brand of indie and trip hop, they were met with massive love from their home press and international media alike. What they were doing at the time was quite unique and put simply, it was niche enough that people were not quite sure where it sat on the genre spectrum. On How To Be a Human Being, the band has made an album that embraces their initial sound, while also simultaneously going in a completely different aural direction.
Opening track and first single “Life Itself”, with its swirling synths, showcases from the get-go the direction the band wanted to purvey to the punters on LPII. It’s so juicy and effervescent that you genuinely don’t want it to end. It lulls the listeners into a false sense of safety with its bouncing percussion, before whirling and piquing interests during the chorus. Hitting a little too close to home for this reviewer with the lyrics, ‘I can’t get a job, so I live with my Mum/ I take her money, but not quite enough’, “Life Itself” is a near perfect example of why the band will gather so much love in the coming months.
The vocals of Dave Bayley are a defining factor in the success of Glass Animals. His higher pitch and falsetto is conducive to the sweet and sour mix of music the band plays. This is prominent on “Youth” and the downbeat “Season 2 Episode 3”. It’s at this point that my suspicions of How To Be a Human Being actually being more hip hop that any other genre comes to fruition and honestly, you’ll be stoked by the strength of the hip hop stylings. The beat of “Season 2 Episode 3” has Kauai-era Gambino written all over it.
“Pork Soda”, now a front-runner for worst flavoured carbonated drink, hits its peak over the last minute as the synths kick in and percussion fulfils on the promise it showed in the earlier parts of the track. The music on “Mama’s Gun” could easily fit in on an animated Disney movie soundtrack, just as the villain’s shady side and intentions begin to show its true form.
While there are most definitely more positives than there are negatives on How To Be a Human Being, the only negative I could suggest is that after a while, all the tracks begin to sound quite similar to one another. Which isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it shows the consistency of the album; there are no glaringly bad tracks.
“Take a Slice” is a song of two halves, with the opening half just plodding along, while the closing half opens up with some juicy addition of synths and scratchy guitar soloing. Helping close out the album are “Poplar St” and “Agnes”, both of which are possibly the most different sounding tracks on …Human Being. The vocals of Bayley are at their distinctive best here, as “Poplar St” becomes the most traditional rock sounding track of the LP. The sadness tinged “Agnes” is a near album stand out and perfectly helps bring an end to 43 minutes of kaleidoscopic tunes.
How To Be a Human Being is definitely an album that showcases the best parts of what Glass Animals do as a band. Where their debut helped project their gooey sounds to the masses, How To Be a Human Being has opened up another dimension that will more than likely bring forth more fans than the band could have imagined.
Review Score: 8 out of 10.
How to be a Human Being is out now.