September 30, 2016


Did Glass Animals Make the Most Slept-On Album of 2016?

Harvest Records
Harvest Records

Consider this a heads-up, or a pro-tip, or a weekend recommendation if you want your weekend to consist of music to shimmy to while it’s raining: Glass Animals’ How To Be A Human Being album, released last month, knocks harder than you can likely imagine, and deserves to be considered as a playlist must-have. 

Yes, this is a late pass. Blame it on end-of-summer malaise; blame it on Britney SpearsGlory, which was released the same day as the British quartet’s second full-length. In reality, Glass Animals’ has taken a few weeks to bloom, and a few listens to reveal itself as essential. Some of these lilting pop tracks require patience, and unfurl their biggest hooks after slithering build-ups. Some of them don’t work on their own, but serve as complementary pieces stacked upon each other to create something vibrant and whole. How To Be A Human Being is not a collection of singles, but a collage of voices and grooves that congeal into some truly daring ideas.

Written and produced by frontman Dave Bayley, HTBAHB is a concept record that juggles different character perspectives and motifs, but thankfully never takes itself seriously enough to get bogged down in storytelling. Consider the dazzling centerpiece “The Other Side of Paradise,” in which Bayley’s voice bounces between a glacial falsetto and jittery yelp as it tells the story of a soul sacrificed for cash from the perspective of the ordinary virtue that was left behind. 

It doesn’t matter that the protagonist is a basketball player, or that this story can exist outside of the concept of the album it’s on. It’s got lyrics worth unpacking, production that becomes captivating upon multiple listens and an ambitious mission statement that’s worth admiring.

This year has been a great one for music, but increased accessibility has also shortened album cycles and listenability life spans. Glass Animals’ latest feels buried by an avalanche of albums that have come out since, that can be streamed endlessly and dissected quickly. It’d be a shame for a body of work as forceful as How To Be A Human Being to become an afterthought by those who explored the album when it dropped on Spotify and quickly disregarded the lack of big radio hits. Wrap your arms around the tender crackle of “Season 2 Episode 3,” the stylish percussion of “Life Itself” and buoyant shimmer of “Youth,” even if you don’t feel like diving headfirst into the stories underneath the standout sounds.

You’re probably exploring new albums from Bon Iver, Banks, Solange and Danny Brown this weekend; I know I am. Add How To Be A Human Being into that mix, and you won’t regret it.