It almost sounds like a classic Disney film when it starts. It’s fun. It’s pretty. Then it’s suddenly rhythmic and the sounds are deeper and lower, then you’re hearing synchronized futuristic notes fading into one another and the album is over.

It just doesn’t take long for “How to Be a Human Being” by the Glass Animals to reveal itself for what it is: funk, sound-effects, synth-pop, and stoner lyrics rolled into an album that will make you want to lie in bed and keep it on repeat and maybe change the way you do your hair.

The opening song “Life Itself” perched itself on the “Alt 18” featured by XM radio’s Alt Nation at the beginning of August, right above much-anticipated underground sounds by Saint Motel, Grouplove, and Twenty One Pilots. These are songs about love and friendship (though a little dark in Twenty One Pilots—but who’s surprised there?).

“Life Itself” presses its listeners with, let’s face it, common millennial fears: unemployment, loss, and ultimate failure. At the same time, I can’t stop listening to it, and if I were the only one, maybe it would be moreso indicative of who I am than the album is about itself. But Billboard’s list of Top Rock Albums named it #2, as of Sept. 17.

The British band released its first album in 2012, the success of which convinced singer and guitarist Dave Bayley to defer his plans to attend medical school after graduation. The popularity of hits “Toes,” “Black Mambo,” and “Gooey” gave the album its current reputation for being dreamy, slightly out-of-touch, and at times completely undecipherable. (“You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes” from “Gooey” is a prime example.)

“How to Be a Human Being” seems more understandable and within grasp in this way. Of course, there’s still an essence that makes you think the singer—and maybe you, as you listen to it—is lost in thought. Primarily, “Season 2 Episode 3,” which rests on the rhythm like the background of video games from the Super Mario 64 days, paired with the lyrics “My girl eats mayonnaise, From a jar when she’s getting’ blazed.” Emphasis on the word ‘mayonnaise.’

At the same time, however, it includes more serious matters, such as “Pork Soda,” singing quietly in the listener’s ear: “How come I see you and ache instead? How come you only look pleased in bed? Let’s climb the cliff edge and jump again.” Granted, these words are followed by “Pineapples are in my head” x2. Those pineapples are important, though. To me, at least.

It’s the psychedelic imagery that provides a backdrop for the more serious stories that Glass Animals tell through their music. These stories talk about homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, laziness, and sudden confrontation with the mundanity in life. Glass Animals actually find these stories by talking to people throughout their travels and recording them (most often in secret). The dreamy sensations created by the drops and rises in volume, the repetition, and sometimes a sound that feels like it’s continuing Keith Parker’s work in Tame Impala’s “Currents,” draws the cruel lyrics and fantastic imagery together. It makes you think that the stories of the lives they sing about couldn’t be true, even though you know that they are.

For those who don’t listen to the lyrics, feel free to enjoy the synth pop and indie fusion. By retaining their easy, slippery, smooth sound, Glass Animals’ “How to Be a Human Being” goes down like a drink, a Sunday drive, your walk to class in the morning—in other words, it seems like a natural part of life, because in the end, all of their song content is.

So if you find yourself relating to “Cane Shuga,” “Take a Slice,” or even to “Life Itself,” don’t worry. It’s all a part of being human.

 



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