Dreamland – A Nostalgic Journey With Glass Animals


Illustration by Diep Hoang

For the record, I’ve never considered myself a huge Glass Animals fan. A few songs have had their time on playlists of mine, tunes like “The Other Side of Paradise” and “Gooey” that are easy to listen to and playlist friendly. I’ve always enjoyed them a bit passively, not really delving into their discography for a deeper listen. However, when their third studio album Dreamland was released on August 7th of this year, I figured it was time to take the dive. Dreamland is like a shot of nostalgia. With genre-blending melodies and meaningful lyrics that take the listener through memories and sounds of the past, this is an album everyone can find something to like about.

Glass Animals has always mystified me. The English band, formed in Oxford in 2010, produces a genre-mixed style of music that touches the bases of indie, alternative and pop. Dreamland is no exception. The album is filled with a variety of sounds that are influenced by The Beach Boys, The Beatles and early 2000’s hip hop. The sound of the album is hard to place a finger on when you listen all the way through for the first time, but that’s one of the things that makes this album so compelling: it doesn’t conform to a particular genre or mood. It’s somewhere in between, almost asking the listener to make their own decision about it.

Dreamland was conceived in 2018 following the tour and success of the band’s 2016 critically-acclaimed album, How to Be a Human Being. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction for the band after two straight years of touring, and production was set to begin on their third studio LP. However, things quickly changed when the band’s drummer, Joe Seaward, was in a life-threatening accident. The following year was spent in uncertainty as Seaward recovered, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all plans for the future were thrown out the window. What resulted from the chaos, however, was the band’s frontman, Dave Bayley, writing an extremely personal and introspective album. The LP is comprised of sounds and memories from Bayley’s childhood, touching on themes of friendship, longing and heartache.

Dreamland opens with the title track; permeating synths and a light underlying melody accompany Bayley’s vocals and draws the listener in. From there, the production shifts towards buoyant pop. The tracks “Tangerine” and “Hot Sugar” feel airy and fun but are accompanied by lyrics about friends changing and falsely falling in love. Something about the disconnection between the way the music sounds and what the songs are about add to the nostalgic feel. A couple of songs later, the album crescendos at track 7, “Tokyo Drifting.” A trap-hip-hop beat changes the mood with fuller 808 bass hits and a fast-paced verse from Denzel Curry. Bayley personifies an alter ego, “Wavey Davey,” to pull off the vocal performance. The second half of the tracklist features Bayley at his most vulnerable. “It’s All So Incredibly Loud” highlights the lyrics “Ooh, I’m breakin’ down/Whispers would deafen me now/You don’t make a sound/Heartbreak was never so loud.” And finally, Dreamland closes with “Helium.” “Helium” summarizes the entire album in an analogy of a relationship and ends with the same synths and sounds that opened the title track.

Dreamland is an album that radically diversifies Glass Animals’s sound and discography. It’s extremely personal, featuring audio bites of home movies recorded on VHS tapes from Bayley’s childhood as interludes. Listen closely, and it sounds like Bayley is whispering directly to you, or put Dreamland on in the background for a unique sound that seems to fit a variety of moods. However your listening preference, Dreamland is relatable on many levels and has something worthwhile for everyone.