Glowbug – Your Funeral

Daniel Anderson’s Glowbug has been putting out an album a year since 2020, and it has become almost a tradition at this point to be greeted by a new record from him early in the year and immediately add it to my “Best Of” list. Vampire Empire was revolutionary to me, even though it wasn’t my first introduction to Glowbug. Last year, The Bumbleebee King shifted gears a bit but still gave me two of my absolute favorite tracks of 2021 – “Friendly Apocalypse” and “Guillotines Out”.

Listening to Anderson’s discography, including his work with Idiot Pilot, it becomes evident he works with a diverse score of influences. As time goes on, I feel I’m slowly figuring out the formula – only for new textures to be added to only obfuscate things further. Chillwave, alternative, mo-town, pop punk, jazz, and post-hardcore are all at play here. And while some of these elements have become more consistent as time goes on, it’s clear each new release has a specific direction it’s taking. This is further cemented by the accompanying artwork which bears the same degree of intentionality and intricacy as the songs themselves. Vampire Empire‘s cover showcased the darkness and introspection of self-displacement in a bit of an amorphous manner; The Bumblebee King inversely resembles a vinyl cover with guitar front and center, signaling a high-energy-but-classic type of feeling.

With that said, Your Funeral breaks tradition. Its vector-based cover is a first for Anderson (who did the art himself, I should add). This might presuppose a heavier electronic lean, but even in this midst of this bright, tropical scene, the reality of death hangs over things. But the subtext here doesn’t go unnoticed – even during bright or normal circumstances, death (be it physical or metaphorical) is still taking place. The juxtaposition of mourning and joy is truly a microcosm of life.

But in some ways, this aesthetic is true for this collection. While Suit of Swords and Wordless were perhaps a bit more aligned with with the chillwave label and were heavily electronic, Your Funeral manages to tackle this formula by adding in a bit of everything that came after – the intermittent screaming of Vampire Empire, tropical-flavored ballads from Fantasma Del Tropico, Talking Heads-influenced bits from The Bumblebee King, and the collaborative heart of Headhunters. This is another way Your Funeral is a microcosm of sorts. This is not simply a Suit 2.0; even so, it feels like a nice nod to both the past and present of Glowbug all at once.

The album starts of with one of the most creative intros I’ve heard in a while – a bit of fourth-wall-breaking with Anderson presenting a eulogy, nervously admitting he hasn’t done this before. He stammers through a bit, mentioning he wrote something for the deceased and then asks for a cord to plug in and instructs someone to hit the “play” button. This leads right into “Skeleton Crew”, a song that would feel right at home on The Bumblebee King. It’s groovy and upbeat, a sort of levity that’s made puzzling when considering the funeral lyrics:

Thank you for being here, nothing to fear
It’s just the end of the road, at least you’re not alone

It feels celebratory – that there’s beauty of community in the midst of loss. It’s at once an anthem of powering through insurmountable seasons and a sort of momento mori, albeit none of this is new for Anderson. But it feels more timely living in an age of tension and uncertainty in nearly every realm of life. Anderson lays our mortality out before us – and asks us to do something in response.

“I Love Audio” is a transparent look at Anderson’s creative process. Take these opening lyrics:

Well, I guess it’s time I had a talk
With myself and anyone who likes to unlock
All of the cogs and gears and lights and levers
Patterns in your syllables continuing forever
Chorus verse repeat, perfectly in sync and neat

Here, the process feels more mechanical than creative. It’s a sort of arrangement of binary switches. But frankly, this isn’t all that foreign – “creativity” is hardly an endless resource, and logic is just as powerful in making things. If there wasn’t a science to this, Nashville’s industry of churning out hits wouldn’t exist. Anderson has mentioned his creation process is utilitarian – like breathing or eating, it’s a natural extension of him as a person. It’s summed up well in these lines:

Who’s the one you’re singing this to?
Someone else or right back at you?

One note about Your Funeral is the absence of co-collaborator Lourdes Hernández. Taking her place is Michael Harris (Idiot Pilot) who croons alongside Anderson on “Entertainer”. This is a high-octane track that again feels like it’d fit right on Bumblebee, but it’s definitely a well-rounded performance on all front and shows all of the best angles of Glowbug. The use of brass and saxophone sounds here audible succulence, and the guitar solo doesn’t drown anything else out. It’s balanced and dynamic. Hearing these two gentlemen together in this context is a bit mindboggling – this isn’t an Idiot Pilot song by any stretch, but their synergy is still evident. There’s even a small nod to their former project at the end of the track.

“Firefly Ball” is a relaxed, electronic ballad of sorts. But this calm nature quietly hides some of the most cryptic lyrics on the record. There’s a reference marionetting bad jokes, a phrase that calls to mind the cover of Vampire Empire. The firefly ball itself is not some sort of supernatural manifestation of fire as some might suppose given the immediate context; the firefly ball python is a designer-gene snake. With that in mind, the lyrics start to offer up their intentions.

Terror of the night, aren’t we a team?

While Anderson celebrates the workings of his mind on “I Love Audio”, here he seems to approach himself with more hesitation, at times feeling at odds with himself – as if he consists of two disparate genetic identities grafted together unnaturally. But even in lieu of this, he reaches a point of acceptance.

You’re a part of me, I know
And I’m just a part of you, I know
Now we’re both letting go

“Typical Boy” shows an interesting change of pace, adding a glitchy drum beat with what I can only describe as a doomsday clocktower chime. Even with this haunting underbelly, the track maintains a pretty bright veneer. If you couldn’t tell by now, this is a trademark Glowbug move. But there’s no guitar in sight as Anderson leans heavily into his skills as producer. The chorus is also one of the strongest of the bunch:

So, I wanna ride all the waves
Well, Could you blame me anyway?
Now, I’ve got my pick of the flags
I guess I’m not a typical boy

Evan Konrad features again on Your Funeral, lending his unique timbre to the Fanstasma-esque “This Knife’s For You”. Even with this guest feature, “This Knife’s For You” is the most lyrically-sparse entry on the record – fitting for a song that talks about holding your tongue. Konrad is a regular feature in the Glowbug Extended Cinematic Universe™ and certainly is a welcome addition here. A minor downside is that this is the last guest feature on the album as we move into the second half.

“Nimrod” is yet another instant highlight. Anderson channels Talking Heads once again, with a fresh and frenetic track about taking a mathematical approach to relationships:

I will calculate the mood, dress accordingly
Let the cartoon wildlife fawn all over me
Is it really all that hard to just
Say something nice to someone you like?

Amid this Phaedric discourse, Anderson has come to recognize the folly in the process and notes that while it’s easy to overthink things, interpersonal connections to a large degree are spontaneous and unpredictable. He was “saving up for love” only to find himself robbed in a moment. It’s definitely one of the most fun tracks of the collection, and it’s full of personality and dynamics. The reference to picking up two cards seems to nod to “Lucky Me”, where the card is instead placed back. It’s subtleties like this that make this an album a treat for regular fans.

Glowbug’s Weezing album album proved Anderson’s affinity for Weezer, and now and then a hint of that influence will surface in his other songs. “One Word Joke” is such a case, taking a similar lethargic delivery, adding in gritty guitar, and dousing it all in a healthy layer of eighth-note rhythms. There’s a bit of screaming sprinkled in for full effect to keep enough of a distinctive edge. The rock-centeredness of the track helps keep the album balanced and diverse.

Things slow down a bit more on “Jellyfishes”, another synth-heavy ballad. It’s surprisingly barren in light of its compatriots; in fact, there’s no percussion at all here – just a lullaby bed of ambience that builds ever-so-slightly toward the close of the song. It’s one of the more cryptic tracks as well, only adding to the overall hypnotic effect. There’s some more Kafkaesque sentiment about floating about and mindless stinging things, but the exact meaning is a bit hard to piece together.

The album closes with the one-two punch of “Midnight Call” and “Blood Bank”, both powerful tracks that wrestle with the concept of what it means to be human, again presenting animal imagery on the former while also tackling mechanical elements on the latter. Neither of these is a new theme at this point, nor are they unique to the Glowbug discography (see “Digital Savior”, for instance). And it wouldn’t be a Glowbug album without some sort of existential-horror type song. But it’s in the album closer that much of the album’s wrestlings with identity are spelled out even more plainly. Take the first verse:

From the start I was locked up like an error
In the snow with my glitched out ransomware
Alt control delete, put me on repeat
Begging for an update
Out of phase with the guitar and the keys
Only one side is real, the other’s me

Next, consider a few lines from the chorus:

Blood is the only thing that makes me real so let’s make a deal
All of this blood is the only thing that makes me real, so let’s make a deal

Your Funeral is a musical and lyrical exploration of identity; it poetically tackles human, animalistic, and mechanical pieces of the psyche while musically spanning bits and pieces of the entire Glowbug discography. It feels like Anderson is reconciling disparate parts of his mind, parts that seem scary or adverse. He wrestles through putting up an image of sorts while mentioning he is tired of fame. It’s perhaps the most personal Glowbug album to date, pairing the same gravity and levity we’ve come to expect from previous albums. There are a few less dynamic tracks in the mix, and there aren’t as many guests as we’ve seen in the past – but even these are minor critiques. We’re invited on a mystical journey through a sort of dark Wonderland where philosophy, love, death, and creation intertwine. It’s exciting to see a decade of Anderson’s varying works coalesce into this record. And with a strong mix of standout tracks along the way, you’ll definitely want to come back for more.

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