If you missed the June 9th release of Glass Animals’ debut album, Zaba, I highly suggest you download it right now. And then listen to it on repeat for several hours.
Opening number “Flip” is a strong start, with frontman Dave Bayley’s voice meandering above the echoic beat. The song steadily builds in tempo, with the addition of quick-paced drums about halfway through, before bursting into a reverberating, multi-faceted conclusion. Previously released tracks such as “Black Mambo” and “Pools” sport slight new tweaks, resulting in a sound that is polished without sounding over-processed. “Gooey”, perhaps their best-known track, is right at home nestled between the insistent jungle-beat of “Pools” and the frenetic, explosive energy of “Walla Walla”.
The album is punctuated by “Intruxx”, which serves as a median between the manic ambience of the first tracks and the lusty, lilty rhythm of songs like “Hazey” and “Wyrd”. The laid-back “Toes”, in particular, proves that Bayley’s voice can triumph even in a less ornate atmosphere (one is reluctant to describe any of the songs on Zaba as stripped-down.) “Cocoa Hooves” wins my affection as best track on the album, with the insistent refrain, “Why don’t you dance like you’re sick in your mind/why don’t you set your wings on fire?” Final track “Jdnt” starts of like a lounge tune but swells with layered, snapping rhythms, tying up the otherworldly elements and primordial noises that permeate the album.
If Zaba is telling a story, it is one that takes place in a dark, dripping cave with shadows dancing on the walls and something sinister snoring in the corner. Bayley’s vocals are unnerving and dream-like, masterfully ranging from a croon to something like a snarl, sometimes within the span of the same song. At once primal and seductive, with lyrics both macabre and melodic, it is hard to say who Glass Animals sound like. They sound like a little bit of everything—a pre-chorus that evokes Alt-J, the chill-wave backing tracks that are a little bit Baths and a little bit Fever Ray, vocals that swell in the style of Florence and the Machine but at the cadence of a tropical storm. It is rare to find an album so aurally challenging and yet utterly listenable.
But it isn’t that their music resists description, quite the opposite—it demands it. The album is deliciously bizarre, with layers upon layers of sound. It is cheeky and clever, less cerebral so much as mischevious. In the hands of a less talented group, it might have been overwhelming and overdone. Instead, the panoply of rhythms and textures comes off as calming, hypnotically so, like a pendulum swaying in front of your eyes from the fingers of a menacing, entirely un-human lover whose sharp teeth beckon.
You’ll go willingly.
ZABA is available on iTunes, iTunes Deluxe and Amazon
Tour dates and other information may be found at glassanimal.eu