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Glass Beach releases genreless sophomore album ‘Plastic Death’

An experimental project fusing punk, jazz and prog rock
(Plastic Death) is, to say the least, an experience. (Glass Beach/Band camp)

After the smash-hit that was “The First Glass Beach Album,” Seattle indie rock band Glass Beach had some big shoes to fill. Their first album was a high-energy cauldron of emo, punk and chiptune songs that quickly garnered them massive amounts of attention, particularly on online spaces such as TikTok.  

It took them five years, but they finally did it. “Plastic Death,” released on Jan. 19, is everything good about “The First Glass Beach Album” and more. It takes the hyper energy from the first album and reroutes it, channeling it into a fusion of jazz, punk and prog rock. It switches genres between and even during songs, from scratchy screamo in “Slip Under the Door” to folky acoustic in “Guitar Song.”  

All emerging from different bands and solo projects, members “Classic” J McClendon, Jonas Newhouse, William White and Layne Smith came together to form Glass Beach. Part of what contributed to their new sound was Smith, who joined after the release of the first album and brought his killer guitar skills with him.  

In their Spotify artist bio, they say that their genreless sound comes from their wide range of musical influences, including new wave, emo and punk. They try to stretch music to its boundaries, making their own rules and playing with it “to the point of absurdity.” And “Plastic Death” is most definitely absurd.  

The opening track, “Coelacanth,” trudges into motion with a crackly spoken-word intro backed by muffled, tense pianos and alien trills. It softly crescendos into a clearer tune, with McClendon all but whispering the lyrics in a tone similar to lo-fi hip-hop artist Joji’s in “Glimpse of Us.”  

The interlude before the second verse plinks at slightly off-tempo guitars and builds the underlying tension sitting behind the melody. These frequent breaks of instrumentals are reminiscent of songs off of “Twin Fantasy” by Car Seat Headrest, which has the same pattern in songwriting.

Another interlude boasts techno-like keyboards and stressful guitar licks before McClendon comes in with the same style of singing – although a noticeably different vibe. Their voice is grief-stricken and mumbled, slurred with the feeling of someone in anguish.  

The bridge rips inward with a screaming guitar riff and punk-rock style drums while McClendon groans with the same sorrowful tone, singing, “Held like a headwound / Violence will free you / Heart with a glass door / All that you asked for.” The outro pounds erratically, sounding like someone repeatedly slamming their head into a wall, coupled with guitar amplifier hums like leaking blood.  

“Rare Animal” begins with ambient bird chirps and keyboard tones before slipping into an indie rock sound with twangy guitars and clacking drumsticks. The vibe is noticeably different from previous songs; less instrumental, otherworldly noise rock. It’s somewhat beachy, chipper and interspersed with thudding guitar slams.  

McClendon’s voice is less audibly anguished and it’s easier to pick out the words they’re singing. After the pre-chorus there’s an outburst of emotion, the guitars become more aggressive and elbow their way to the forefront. McClendon’s voice cracks and even growls on the line, “He’s just sleepwalking on weary feet.”  

Band members Newhouse, White and Smith shout the backing vocals like a crowd singing along at a punk-rock show. The outro screeches in accompanied by grungy guitars and complex drum rhythms, almost masking McClendon’s wails of “Tomorrow was all smoke and mirrors.”  

“Plastic Death” is, to say the least, an experience. It’s clear that Glass Beach wanted to get away from mainstream, crowd-pleasing tunes, and doing so allowed them to create something truly unique. It’s an album that will go down in indie rock history and I can’t wait to see where the band goes next. 

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  • D

    D. Pete WhiteMar 29, 2024 at 5:43 am

    And what an experience it was at The Garage in Burnsville, MN! We were so glad we made the 2 hour trip to see and hear them. Four gifted musicians packed into one awesome band. What an impressive review to help relive the experience!