It’s almost as if British four-piece Glass Animals saw the gap in 2012 buzz band Alt-J’s album cycle and thought ‘now’s our time to strike’. And strike they have, with their debut LP, Zaba, filling the gap left by the aforementioned angular outfit as they work towards their new release while also dealing with the exodus of original member, bassist/guitarist Gwil Sainsbury.
It’s a lazy comparison to be sure, but a fair one, with Glass Animals’ trip-hop-meets-R&B/electronica vibes definitely covering some of the same territory, whilst also throwing in some Wild Beasts for good measure. Fortunately, there’s more than enough on Zaba for Glass Animals to cast away into their own realm of busy percussion, breathy, coo-ing vocals, intricate production and indie whimsy. The fact the group have been taken under the wing of super-producer Paul Epworth (Florence & The Machine, Foster The People, Azaelia Banks) should give you some indication of the quality on offer here.
The singles you already know – Pools and Gooey – rather than standing tall above the rest, offer a strong middle point to Zaba, and make a good case for the tag ‘all killer, filler’. Walla Walla offers distinctive tribal beats at moombah-like pace, while Cocoa Hooves offers sparse, slinky vibes into album closer, Jdnt is a sexy way to round out proceedings.
Busy percussion and sparse arrangements is a signature of the bands’ sound no doubt, but it’s the soothing vocal meanderings of Dave Bayley that really set Glass Animals apart. The regular harmonizing present on the straight-up R&B jam Black Mambo only add to the whole affair, and sets Zaba as one of 2014’s most assured debuts, and a great albums on the whole.
Words by Harold Callahan