How do you deal with pain and all that comes with it? According to Glass Animals, “You go make an album and call it Dreamland”.
It takes true artists to turn so much turmoil into something as beautiful as Dreamland: the third studio album by the psychedelic pop group. Although the release expresses their collective trauma resulting from drummer Joe Seaward’s near-fatal brain injury, it follows an autobiographical journey through lead singer-songwriter Dave Bayley’s mind during this grieving process. Along the way, numerous social issues are addressed and the release was even delayed to ensure continued focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s easy to understand why, as since first hearing it I have barely thought of anything else.
Fluidity and experimentation prevail the entire the album, but the sublime opening title track lays out a lyrical and sonic roadmap for what lies ahead. The atmospheric elevator-style music of the introduction transports the listener deep into Bayley’s mind, as we begin “slipping through dreamland like a tourist” on this profound journey.
Past, present and future become indistinguishable in this timeless listening experience, as childhood nostalgia and contemporary issues such as toxic masculinity sit comfortably side by side. Among the swirling, hallucinogenic soundscape pervading the release there is still variety and contrast between many of the tracks, such as the triumph of Tokyo Drifting featuring Denzel Curry and the upbeat funk of Your Love. It feels as though every corner of Bayley’s mind is explored, allowing the listener to develop a seemingly personal understanding of his life while also reflecting on one’s own experiences. When it is time to say goodbye, this is achieved through vivid imagery and care, as we travel through a world of “Soft blue skies, helium balloons float up away, broad daylight, but we’re sunflowers in the rain”.
The crux of Dreamland’s fantastical atmosphere is the effortless abundance of colours and sensory stimulation. The lyrics of Hot Sugar create a synesthetic wonderland of “lemongrass eyelids, smoke in your slick lips, chocolate chapstick, backbeat strat flips”. Cutting through this transcendence are powerful tones of realism, through a collage of British and American cultural references as varied as fruit loops and The Price is Right. Among this humour and wit, Bayley manages to find room for darker more serious subjects in Domestic Bliss and It’s All So Incredibly Loud.
Effortlessly combining contemporary social issues and trauma with colours, realism and imagery, Dreamland by Glass Animals covers the whole gamut of human emotion while remaining simultaneously intimate and personal.