How to be a Human Being by Glass Animals, a British alternative band, was released on Aug. 26, 2016 as their second full album. Since then, Glass Animals released Dreamland in 2020, which has received more wide-spread recognition with popular songs like “Heat Waves”. The band has even been nominated for a Grammy for “best new artist” this year, but despite their newfound popularity and success, I find that How to be a Human Being, while a slightly older album, still resonates deeply with me.
The album tells the story of 11 unique characters shown on the album cover, employing one song for each person. Using catchy melodies and groovy effects, the album takes you through a range of emotions just as diverse as it’s cast of characters. Some songs, like “Life Itself” and “Take a Slice”, are energetic and defiant, while others, like “Mama’s Gun” and “Agnes,” are haunting and sorrowful. Each is well worth a listen.
To suit the emotion needed for each song, Glass Animals developed a wide variety of sounds. From powerful, pounding beats to mellow rhythms, the album has it all.
The instrumentals aren’t the only mode used to convey emotion or story, though. Dave Bayley, lead singer of Glass Animals, changes his pitch and inflection in each song to best represent the characters thatthe songs are about. In “The Other Side of Paradise”, a song told from the perspective of a woman grieving for her lost love, Bayley adopts a falsetto voice to give the impression of a woman from Louisiana singing, rather than a man from Texas. This draws the listener deeper into the story and immerses them into the narrative.
The intoxicating sound of the album is only half of the experience; the lyrics and story play a large role too. For me, the best part of listening through this album was uncovering the story of each new character. The lyrics of each song are crafted in a way that suggests a plotline without dumping a full novel on the listener. Part of it lies in listener interpretation too, so the same song may mean something completely different to someone else.
At the heart of this album lies empathy. The empathy to see another human being and wish to share their story to the best of your ability. That is what Glass Animals does in How to be a Human Being; melody, beat, vocals, lyrics, and even the album cover tell such a compelling story. All of it comes together to create a product that I am not shy to proclaim as my all-time favorite album.
If you have not had a chance to give this album a listen, I urge you to take time to do so. If you have had the pleasure of listening to some or all of this album, I also urge you to give it another listen. You might find that you discover a new perspective or story, or even just a cool beat or guitar riff that you enjoy.