We take a look at Dreamland, an album which seems like the perfect soundtrack for those stuck in the internet age, especially in this age of increasingly online society.
“We have these curated versions of ourselves on the internet,” Glass Animals’ frontman Dave Bayley comments on Instagram, “Edited, cool, distilled versions of us.” The band’s recent offering Dreamland flawlessly encapsulates that conceptual online persona, so omnipresent in 21st-century virtual spaces – so much so that it feels almost invasive as if the quartet has hacked into my locked-up teenage memories of growing up no further than a few metres away from a PC at any time.
The album itself seems like the perfect soundtrack for those stuck in the internet age. It’s a forlorn, nostalgic trip through the psychedelic-pop beats that Glass Animals are so well known for. The eponymous opening track, Dreamland, opens a door into soft, swaddling melodies that are both comforting and disorientating at the same time. It also implies an almost snarky sense of self-awareness in its ending lyrics: “Oh, it's 2020 so it's time to change that / So you go make an album and call it Dreamland.”
Gen Z, my generation, possesses a total understanding and awareness of the constant interconnection of the internet in the modern age. With that comes the desire to offer up an idealised version of yourself as an avatar whilst attempting to sever all emotional attachments between it and your person. Unsurprisingly, as human as we are, that’s basically impossible to do. So, the result is a group of teens and 20-somethings with distanced senses of self completely disseminated across all corners of the web.
This same theme continues throughout the rest of the album, married to hyper-futuristic beats carving a racetrack through the entirety of Dreamland. It’s hard to choose a favourite track (as the album offers so many bangers), but I’ll walk through my top three.
Tangerine, the second track, has a bouncing, uplifting backing melody that completely offsets the actual message of the song. Wistful lyrics reminisce about someone lost to the draws of modern life – of money, power, the internet – but yet how the singer can still recognise them by the “tiny tangerine speckles painted in [their] eyes.” Tokyo Drifting, the only song on the album with a feature (in this case, Denzel Curry) swells with carnal beats and luscious lyrics spat out in perfect rhythm, with Curry’s verse serving as the apex of the track. Finally, Domestic Bliss is a haunting, melancholic tune about domestic violence that portrays a dream just out of reach: “said we can leave, I'm beggin' / Please, on my, on my knees / Hawa-Hawaii.”
Every track on the album plays against that overarching theme of a distant, futuristic persona; a lost sense of self in one way or another. Whether that’s due to the pulls of money and modern lavishness or the avatars we create just to survive in situations that aren’t as kind to us as they should be. With that comes this creeping feeling of a disconnect and of things not being as they seem on the outside – like a dream. Hot Sugar, a song about a flourishing relationship which in truth is built completely on the other person’s enviable persona, murmurs: “I wish that we could be real too.” This could be not only a nod to the singer wishing their relationship was real but their personas, too, their idealized versions of self, found only in dreams.
Overall, Glass Animals have put together the gorgeous package that is Dreamland with absolute care. Every track - including the interlude "home movie" tracks peppered throughout the tracklist which serve to heighten the sentimental tone of the album - works together to perfectly communicate the dreamscape that is the modern internet age. If you haven’t yet heard at least one track from the album – which would surprise me – go ahead and take a listen. It’s definitely one of my favourite releases of 2020.
Overall rating: 8/10
Top track: Tangerine