Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: Harvest
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
When Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley says he’s into cerebral music, he means it. The Oxford native has a degree in neuroscience from London’s King’s College. But Bayley, who cites trip-hop acts like Flying Lotus and Madlib as influences, is no snob when it comes to crafting heady, intricate beats and smooth R&B grooves. Initially a bedroom project, Glass Animals grew into a quartet after Bayley brought three of his childhood friends onboard.
Glass Animals’ full-length debut sounds just as its single, “Gooey,” suggests. ZABA’s syrupy melodies reel you in, get your blood pumping and craving more, but it’s the lyrical innuendo that sticks to you and won’t let go. The album—heavily laden with tribal-meets–R & B percussion that carries ZABA from start to finish—thrives thanks in part to the inclusion of vocalist Dave Bayley’s falsetto oozing all over its 12 tracks, spreading visceral desire wherever it lands.
Oxford four-piece Glass Animals are signed to super-producer Paul Epworth’s new label Wolf Tone – which, given his talent-spotting track record with Adele and Florence + The Machine, says something for their commercial appeal, sitting as they do directly between Alt-J, Wild Beasts and ‘In Rainbows’-era Radiohead. That singer Dave Bayley is a qualified doctor perhaps explains their brainiac aesthetic, all intricate beats and time signatures, but their songs have heart to go with the giant brain. ‘Black Mambo’ is straight-up sexy R&B, ‘Pools’ is an immediate blast of tropical rhythm, and recent single ‘Gooey’ shimmies and slides along magnificently.
For the last couple of years, Oxford-via-London quartet Glass Animals has wooed listeners with a steady stream of singles and remixes. "Psylla" and "Black Mambo" exhibited a sound somewhere between the dark, enveloping trip-hop of Massive Attack and weirdo groove-makers Alt-J. "Gooey" came along later, and rolled a scintillating R&B vibe into the musical compound; it was like a raunchy Miguel cut, but way too heady and British to fall far outside Radiohead's spectrum of influence.
On their full-length debut, Glass Animals recall more than a few of their contemporaries: Foals, Alt-J, and especially Wild Beasts spring to mind as touchstones for the band's lush yet challenging mix of indie and electronic sounds ("Hazey," meanwhile, suggests a collaboration between Massive Attack and Antony Hegarty). However, Zaba also shows what David Bayley and company bring to this style. Bayley, who produced the album, lavishes these songs with sonic details that are almost hallucinatory: the echoes that grace opening track "Flip" suggest a slow-motion reverie before the song locks into a louder, and arguably more predictable, rock groove, while "Pools" lives up to its name with its aquatic sound.
With their impeccable reference points (the xx, the Weeknd) and cryptic song titles (Intruxx, Wyrd), Oxford's Glass Animals are, at least on paper, an enticing proposition. But their debut album, the first full-length release on super-producer Paul Epworth's label, is too clinical to truly convince. Though tracks such as Flip and Pools are undeniably cool, you can sense the quartet straining to tick the right boxes rather than pursuing a sound that's theirs alone.
Friday evening at The Great Escape, and several hundred of us are crammed in to a damn-near molten Coalition down on Brighton’s seafront to watch Glass Animals. Most of us are here because of 'Gooey', at the time rotating dizzily on 6music’s playlist, or just attracted like flies to the buzz around the Oxford four-piece, but a few - a few are rather more fervent. 'I fucking love you!' yells a young woman who’s apparently flown in from Canada for this gig: 'No, really - I really love you.' This carries on for some time, the woman becoming increasing eager in her attempts to demonstrate her claims, mouthing every word of every song and gyrating fearsomely towards their frontman.
Oxford’s maverick noiseniks Glass Animals, touted by master chart-puppeteer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Adele, Florence + The Machine and many more), unloaded clip upon clip of awesome right to our temple last year. They presented us with a genuinely unique premise, stuffed with the warped tie-dye drones of psychedelia, the sultry slither of noir&B, a dash of soul, a jigger of synthpop and elements of grandiose baroque-rock, trip-hop and ‘90s pop. No one else really sounds like Glass Animals, who wield, quite majestically, both astute hind and foresight.
When I interviewed Glass Animals in 2012, there was very little information about them available. So, instead of doing any real journalism, I asked questions like "If you had your own crystal menagerie, what animals would it house?". They drew a picture of a creature – half llama, half unicorn – wearing Nike blazers and eating a watermelon. I suspect it was rendered using Microsoft Paint.