In the follow up to his acclaimed 2019 debut, Twenty Twenty, Djo (the stage name of Stranger Things actor Joe Keery) makes a hypnotic return with his long-awaited second album, DECIDE. Being no stranger to captivating album art, Djo's DECIDE cover sees a silhouetted, wig-wearing Joe Keery holding out an 8-ball as the focal point of the cover. The neon blue 8-ball triangle contains the album title in small lettering, barely noticeable, as if its main purpose is to be a mysterious piece of art that perfectly represents the album — an alluring mix of neon, tech, and groove.
Self-described as “a spell-binding collage of snaky pop hooks, neon melodies, and deeply personal singer-songwriter lyricism”, the album is exactly that. From the very first track, 'Runner', the listener knows that they are in for an entrancing experience. The synthesizers at the beginning hint at 8-bit, chiptune electro, with more and more layers of soundbites being added on as the song continues. “Runner” is a perfect start to the rest of the album, as it is evident that Keery had fun experimenting with a variety of sounds and techniques for the album, which makes it just as fun to listen to. From the get-go, it says with a wink, “Oh do you like this? Just wait”.
On top of its Todd Terje-esq synth pop, whose own album cover inspired the artwork for Djo single 'Keep Your Head Up', DECIDE has some deeply personal and resonating lyricism. The sixth track on the album, 'End of Beginning', has psych-rock elements which recall Keery’s days with Post Animal, while the lyrics are able to strike a chord with anyone who has moved away from a place they considered home. With the chorus of "Another version of me, I was in it / I wave goodbye to the end of beginning", Keery talks about his days of life in Chicago before super-stardom, the anxiety that came with new opportunities, and the deep nostalgia that comes with returning afterwards.
The album ranges in mood. Tracks like 'Gloom' and 'Half-Life' carry more anger than the rest of the album, but the lyrics are representative of Keery’s struggle to adjust to his overnight, meteoric rise to fame. It is clear that the actor is wanting to separate himself from his uber-successful acting credits. While performing on stage at Music Festivals like Lollapalooza, Keery wears a long brunette wig and sunglasses, a guard from continuous conversation about his acting persona that distracts from his massive musical talent.
If you’re looking for an album to blast in your ears while you walk home, that simultaneously helps you process the stresses of newfound adulthood and still makes you want to groove on the dancefloor, look no further. An arguably no-skip album, Djo’s DECIDE is the perfect album for enjoyers of indie, rock and electro who are looking for something a bit different, with its hints of winking psychedelia.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor