Glass Animals album ‘How to Be a Human Being’

Posted on Aug 30 2016 - 8:01am by Jake Thrasher

Two years after their debut album “Zaba,” Glass Animals has released their documentary-like album “How to Be a Human Being.”

Their style has taken a major shift since their first album, which features abstract lyrics and psychedelic melodies. In “How to Be a Human Being,” Glass Animals explores the lives of people they have encountered over the past two years.

Each track on the album has a different personality in both lyrics and style. The opening song and first single released, “Life Itself,” has an upbeat sound that contrasts with the heavier lyrics. “Life Itself” deals with not living up to your parents’ expectations or childhood expectations. The juxtaposition between the lyrics and the style implies a person can still be happy regardless of his parents’ expectations. The second song on the album “Youth” is the wishes of an absent mother for her son; through the lyrics you can feel the mother struggle with the fact she gave her son up so he could have a better life. Each song tells a raw story, which really makes the album feel like a guide to going through all the ups and downs of life — literally like a guide on how to be a human being.

Visual Interpretation of "How to Be a Human Being"

Illustration by Jake Thrasher

The album is very experimental in style and sound. The song “Season 2 Episode 3” uses video game sounds and electronically layered voices along with traditional instruments to create the beat for the song. “Pork Soda” and “Take a Slice” both open with conversations in ambient noise, creating a humorously nostalgic tone going into these songs. While a majority of the album still has the signature psychedelic sound, other songs feature more classic rock aspects such as “Poplar St.”

The most interesting song on the album, “[Premade Sandwiches],” is both unique in sound and lyrical content. This track is a criticism of modern-day consumerism and how it controls most people’s lives in the form of a spoken word poem, read by a heavily synthesized voice. The first stanza includes the lyrics “People standing in line to smoke weed that’s green tea / People standing in line for two rails of oxiclean” which compares the consumeristic lifestyle to the lifestyle of drug abusers. Through the poem, the robotic voice reinforces the unsatisfying yet addicting aspect of consumerism and proclaims the hopelessness it creates with with the closing stanza “People complaining about standing in line /People standing in line and they don’t even know why.”


Glass Animals

The cover art features a group portrait of 11 people from different walks of life, suggesting there is some connection between each of the characters. Each of the characters appears linked together throughout the album by the accompanying music videos. The first two singles released with music videos introduce five of the 11 characters and set up part of the overarching narrative of the album. So far, it appears a young boy kidnapped from whom we assume to be his mother working in a small diner, checks into a motel. The kidnapper, a woman elegantly dressed in white, is being pursued by another man and woman. More of the album’s characters are expected to be introduced as the remaining music videos are released and the story unfolds. 

The experimental style and unique storytelling aspect of “How to Be a Human” lures the listener into spending an intimate amount of time with each track. Listening to each song is like meeting a new person:  You want to get to know them on a personal level. Introducing an overarching plot into the music videos creates the theatrical aspect, similar to visual albums such as “Lemonade” by Beyoncé. But Glass Animals is also building suspense, almost like a TV series, by releasing new installments over a period of time. The interactive qualities of “How to Be a Human Being” create an experience that will keep fans invested over a longer period of time than traditional albums.