2016 was a great year for music, and How To Be A Human Being was personally my favorite album that came out of it.
Glass Animals created an album where each track told a narrative about a fictitious character. How To Be A Human Being covered many bases, ranging from the struggles of unemployment and living with your mom (“Life Itself”), to a basketball player moving out west to make it (“The Other Side of Paradise”), to cocaine infused delusions (“Cane Shuga”).
This album was a departure from their jungle themed sound they carried on their 2014 album Zaba, but at the same time is an evolution of the strange, catchy sound that Glass Animals has been known for.
The song “Season 2 Episode 3” sounds straight out of a video game, while mocking the culture of people who sit in front of their television all day, with bizarre lyrics such as:
“Leftovers for breakfast, cereal for lunch. She’s broken but she’s fun. My girl eats mayonnaise, from the jar when she’s getting blazed”
In September of 2016, I was able to catch Glass Animals live at the Ritz in Raleigh, NC. After the show, I was able to meet band member Drew MacFarlane (guitar/keys) and discussed with him how each character was written for the album. According to MacFarlane, Dave Bayley (lead singer) wrote out storyboards for each character with characteristics about that person (such as: what they ate, wore, etc), and used these to develop each character into a story.
Encounters on tours were also a major influence into the creation of these songs. Dave Bayley states that the chorus of “Pork Soda” was based from an encounter with a homeless man (via Paste Magazine):
“I heard a homeless man talking to someone once and say ‘pineapples are in my head.’ In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually those words, but I thought it was at the time, and it kind of stuck with me.”
The album closes with the heartbreaking “Agnes,” a song describing the horrors of watching a friend spiral into crippling depression, become addicted to drugs, and then finally commit suicide, all while being unable to help them. The song makes a reference to Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut with the lyric, “and so it goes,” and closes with chilling lyrics reflecting on what it feels like to lose a loved one:
“You’re gone but you’re on my mind, I’m lost but I don’t know why”
Overall, How To Be A Human Being is one of the more creative albums I have listened to, and highly recommend giving it a listen from start to finish.
Key Tracks: Season 2 Episode 3, Pork Soda, The Other Side of Paradise, Agnes