Joe Keery’s burgeoning musical persona, Djo, continues to get stranger with his second album, “DECIDE.”
“DECIDE” is full of psychedelic influence, but it hits electronic territory more heavily than Djo’s previous work. Keery’s playful use of vocal filters and retro ’80s synths create a sound that listeners might feel like they could swim in.
The sound gets dark and heavy in “Change” and “Half Life,” but Djo cuts out the bass, slowing down to showcase his vocal chops in dreamy choruses.
Keery, best known for portraying Steve Harrington in ‘Stranger Things’, released his debut project ‘Twenty Twenty’ in 2019. ‘Twenty Twenty’ falls somewhere between psychedelic rock and dreamy shoegaze – a refreshingly unique sound in an indie-rock world. “DECIDE” pushes the boundaries even further, taking Djo’s work to strangely wonderful new heights.
The lyrics of Djo’s songs correspond to his musical choices. “DECIDE” is packed with songs about millennial burnout, the cost of fame, social media addiction, and the never-ending news cycle. Keery’s lyricism is not subtle, but neither is any other part of his music. His tracks are bold, strong and colorful – a hallmark of the “Djo” persona that Keery uses as a stage persona.
“Do you think these people really care about you?” / Do you really think they’ll be there for you? /Hooked up/It’s a half life,” Keery sings of “Half Life,” a dystopian warning about the future — or present — of the internet.
Despite its melancholic themes, “DECIDE” dances between fatalism and optimism. A few bright spots like “I Want Your Video” and “Change” make this Djo’s most groovy existential crisis to date.
With approximately 36 minutes, “DECIDE” wastes little time. He takes off at a sprint with “Runner”, a mostly electronic track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Gloom,” which was released in July 2022 as a single before the full album, lives up to its title.
“These people stressing me out, I’m ready to go / Feeling pretty bad, I’m ready to go,” Keery sings over a panicked backline.
Keery reopens the monologue about his struggles with stardom in “Fool.” It’s a short, upbeat, and haunting exploration of what it’s like to be seen as a source of entertainment rather than a person. “On and On” keeps the nihilistic vibe with overly relevant lines on “doomscrolling– a modern phenomenon where internet users feel unable to stop themselves from endlessly scrolling through deteriorating news.
“End of Beginning” is a relaxing change of pace, paying homage to Chicago where Keery graduated from DePaul University in 2014.
One of the album’s most promising songs, “Change”, was the first single released from the album in June 2022 – a great call. It has all the basic elements of the style Djo has established so far: a catchy hook, swelling build-ups and a driving bassline.
“Something happen to me / A change I can see / I thought this change was bad / But you changed your mind,” Keery sings.
The penultimate track is “Figure You Out”, one of the most technically impressive songs on the album. “Figure You Out” is full of smooth, distinct transitions and layered sounds that create a heavy musical atmosphere. It’s a bit enigmatic, but it’s still a must-have dance piece.
The album ends with “Slither”, a short and ominous release – hopefully with the promise that more DJs will arrive soon.
Djo’s record is innovative, charming and genuinely empowering – it definitely doesn’t suffer from a second album crisis. It combines a whimsical and nostalgic synth reminiscent 8 bit music with psychedelic soundscapes like those of contemporary independent artists Tame Impala or Post Animal.
Despite some of its departures from the sound Djo established with “Twenty Twenty”, “DECIDE” is a stunning creative project that promises prodigious potential for the rest of Keery’s musical career.
“DECIDE” is now available on all music streaming platforms.
(Visited 106 times, 8 visits today)