“How To Be A Human Being: Glass Animals’ second album has more characters than character.”
The debut album by English indie rockers Glass Animals, Zaba, simmered with slinky beats and enigmatic lyrics about drugs and sex. Released two years ago, Zaba was produced by Adele and Florence and the Machine producer Paul Epworth and was also the first release to come out on his Wolf Tone imprint.
Two years later, the Oxford four-piece have extended those sounds and themes into a second album of 11 songs sung from the point of view of the 11 characters featured on the album cover.
HTBAHB’s choose-your-own-character theme is filled with perpetual slackers living delinquent lives, sad lovers and drug-hazed memories, which is interesting at first but midway through begins to sound like the unreliable accounts of a single character. (Singer Dave Bayley’s fondness for the term “baby boy” does even less to distinguish the multiple voices.)
What prevents HTBAHB’s concept from slipping into narrative monotony is its textured and lively production, which gives each song its own personality. Opener Life Itself whirls with Arabic beats, building to a euphoric finish. Youth’s wistful danceability has an allure that’s free of some of the quirky production effects the band is known for. The foreboding flutter of Mama’s Gun (“In the summer silence I was getting violent”) is vividly emotional, and Cane Shuga’s distorted, rapid-fire hook is entrancing.
On the other hand, interlude Premade Sandwiches is an unnecessarily preachy 36-second diatribe against fads. The R&B-meets-bleepy video game music on Season 2 Episode 3 is odd and never quite enjoyable. And Agnes, the gloomy, anticlimactic closer, ejects the listener out of the edgy world that much of the album finds strength in by relying too heavily on a mainstream radio sound that feels too safe. Nonetheless, as a whole, HTBAHB is thrilling enough to achieve replay status.
Top track: Cane Shuga