First of all, welcome back to my column! I hope you had a great summer regardless of the current state of the world, and I’m glad you’ve come back to read about art that I’m passionate about. You might have noticed that my column actually has a title now! Hidden Gems is going to be a running series where I bring to light some hidden gems of art that have been overlooked or underappreciated by the majority of people. Be warned, there might also be some lumps of coal (e.g. art related topics that I’m passionately furious about). In the first entry of this series is the album Dreamland, released in August of 2020 by the band Glass Animals. I’ve been looking forward to an album by Glass Animals since their last album in 2016, and I got even more excited as they started dropping amazing singles like Tokyo Drifting. Having listened to the entire album at least 50 times now, I can guarantee it qualifies for hidden gem status. I think the album can be best summed up by my three favorite songs, which are presented here, along with some of my thoughts on what makes each one so spectacular:
Space Ghost Coast to Coast:
This is the first big moment on the album and one of my favorites by far. The intro starts with a deep, heavy strumming and a clappy beat that is so incredibly catchy and dark, it immediately grabs your attention. Then Dave (the lead singer) comes in with slightly filtered vocals in his rich and gentle style that creates this moody, atmospheric sound that complements the instrumental so well. Then halfway through there’s this amazing build up, then a crisp and hypnotizing beat breakdown that is absolutely perfect. It reminds me of monsters and cold Halloween nights, alone in the dark. The plot of the song is also notable: it’s the story of a childhood friend who goes down a dark path, and the themes of the story are exactly what the song needs. This is completely different than anything Glass Animals has released before, both in its instrumentation and its themes, which makes it extremely exciting as a Glass Animals fan. Overall it’s a perfect song, I just wish it was longer.
Tokyo Drifting ft. Denzel Curry:
I have to be up front: if you’ve been reading my column for awhile you’ll already know this, but I’m a huge Denzel Curry fan. His style is absolutely unique and incredibly intense, and I always get so hyped when he starts a verse. It seems like Glass Animals understands the effect that Denzel has, and that they crafted this song around that same energetic and electric feeling. The synths they use are large and brassy, overlaid with one another to create this whole symphony of punchy rhythms. The lyrics and vocal delivery by Dave are subtle and cool, which perfectly align with the themes of the songs. This song also nails its transitions: there are so many spots where the song sets itself up for an amazing drop, and then totally obliterates the landing. The build up to Denzel’s verse is a stellar example of tension, and of course when Denzel comes in it’s insanely cool and perfectly executed. It’s easy to see why it’s such a great song, and I don’t think nearly enough people have heard it.
Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth:
This song starts with another incredible intro, featuring a plucky guitar and punchy percussion. Overall, the percussion on this album is one of its greatest achievements: each song is a completely different experience, unlike anything I’ve heard in other music. Then Dave starts singing and it’s like all the pieces fall together and the atmosphere of the song is revealed. It’s over-the-top and not afraid to experiment with multiple styles, changing instrumentation often and contrasting light vocal passages with intense responses. Halfway through the song is one of the best moments on the entire album: everything goes soft and timid, there’s a gradual build up with some carefully placed effects, and then suddenly it’s pure, outrageous insanity. I absolutely love the palette of this song and how well it demonstrates the stylistic freedom of Glass Animals. You have to give it a listen, not even just these three songs, but the entire album. It’s not a perfect project, but it’s certainly a hidden gem.