For their ambitious sophomore album, the members of the indie-electronic band Glass Animals got some creative help from an unlikely source — total strangers.
Each song on the terrific "How to Be a Human Being" is told from the perspective of someone inspired by a person the band encountered on the road, from taxi drivers to fans. The result is a complex, exciting tapestry of a CD which switches musical styles and reveals new things each time it's played.
The foursome, hailing from the southern England city of Oxford, had a breakthrough with the 2014 album "Zaba," which featured the band's melding of '90s R&B and deft electronic touches. This time, they're mature, layered — and hypnotic.
From the orchestral swell of "Mama's Gun" to the tropical percussions of "Life Itself" and the video game loops in "Season 2 Episode 3," Glass Animals make each of their 11 songs as individual as the 11 folk pictured on the album cover, like a dysfunctional family portrait.
The lyrics profile people who can't get off the couch, who hear voices, who use drugs and whose general reality never matches their dreams. They're regretful, sometimes arrogant and often clueless. But a deep well of empathy runs through the album.
Singer Dave Bayley can be funny — "My girl eats mayonnaise from a jar while she's getting blazed" — to deep, as in: "Guess life is long when soaked in sadness." He also has the terrific spoken-word rant "Premade Sandwiches" about over-commercialization of food.
Strangers don't usually help spark such good stuff, but Glass Animals are clearly a special kind of band. Our advice: Don't be a stranger.