When I first listened to Glass Animals’ new single ‘Life Itself’, I was worried that their follow-up album would be a revisit of their tribal/forest inspired debut, Zaba. Whilst this was an incredible first album, setting Glass Animals apart as a unique band, it is always important for a band to progress and develop. So rarely can this be achieved by recycling old styles and merely extending the initial work. Just look at Two Door Cinema Club, who produced two very similar, very good, albums but then had to take a four year hiatus after Beacon before releasing their third album Game Show (14 October) because they felt the creative juices had stopped flowing.

How To Be a Human Being is a portfolio of vivid vignettes compiled by lead singer Dave Bayley. Captured over two years, and based on a mixture of conversations he recorded with strangers while on tour, it is mainly autobiographical notes and pure fiction. The essential element of humanity sets this album in a different league from many recent releases. Never before have I experienced an album so complete as an interactive product. Bayley constructed mood boards and full personalities for each of the charactersttention to detail that makes the album feel so incredibly immersive and complete.

Sonically the album is a veritable smorgasbord of different genres and styles. Just as in Zaba, the band bring myriad sounds from samples and recordings together to create an incredibly rich auditory experience. These range from the standard practice of sampling other artists where they use a flute sound from the Carpenters’ ‘Mr. Guder’ on the ode to summer boredom, ‘Mama’s Gun’ to the somewhat unusual retro video game sound which help to tell the tale of the fictional stoner girlfriend on ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ to the downright unorthodox transposing of a recorded owl to be used as a synthesiser in the playful but deeply sad second song ‘Youth’.

The album is an absolute gold mine of hidden gems which slowly emerge from the woodwork the more you listen to the album. The strong beats and funky riffs are a feature throughout which lend the record a very unique scene as it continues to flit between styles. Whilst the album starts off fairly light hearted in sound, almost every story has melancholic undertones as it continues to tell the story of how society has failed the characters and their strive to succeed and be accepted. As it progresses the songs become more aggressive in their messages as they seem to move closer to being genuinely autobiographical. This bolder streak reaches a head in the interlude ‘[Premade Sandwiches]’ where Bayley vociferates for a half minute on what he sees as the flaws in todays consumerist and vacuous society with “people standing in line and they don’t even know why”. After the interlude the album starts to wind down slightly with the wistful lament of the basketball player who was “gonna be a hoop phenomenon” in ‘The Other Side Of Paradise.’

It is the first song which, in an album full of sad songs, hits home as truly tragic, especially as the fairly slow moving melodic tune draws to a close with the crushing last line “I don’t love you anymore, she said, and ceased to be”. By the closing song, ‘Agnes’, the autobiographical line has all but disappeared as Bayley bemoans the loss of a lover who he still longs for. The song is full of emotive description as he bitterly groans at Agnes who “pulled the f***in trigger” before retreating into futile self-pitying as he proclaims “I’m lost but I don’t know why”.

How to Be a Human Being is an album that truly keeps on giving. Listen to it once. Then listen to it again. Read the lyrics. Match the characters to the album cover. Then check out the band’s Facebook and it’ll be no surprise to see the painstaking effort they’ve put into making each story feel genuine. Whilst I suppose the album is technically a concept album it comes with none of the frills or pretentious normally associated with that label and is one of the standout albums of the year so far.

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