Photo Courtesy of News Break
Story by Ashley Barrientos/Contributing Writer
21-year-old British pop prodigy Declan McKenna released his glittery and celestial new album, “Zeros,” on September 4th. Once labeled as a voice for his generation after addressing several social issues in his debut record, “What Do You Think About the Car,” McKenna’s new album steers away from direct calls to action and instead addresses different matters. McKenna lathers these twinkling 70s and 80s inspired songs with themes of space and doomsday scenarios while illustrating visions of a world governed by technology.
The retro-futuristic album’s musical expedition ranges from energetic and upbeat tones to a terrain filled with Bowie-inspired harmonies.
McKenna opens the album with an otherworldly (literally) song, “You Better Believe It!!,” about fending for yourself on a dying planet; he illustrates this with guitar crescendos and funky 70s accents. This musical motif trickles into a majority of the album’s songs, including “Beautiful Faces,” “Daniel, You’re Still a Child” and “Rapture.”
Traces of McKenna’s debut album can be heard through the combined guitar plucking and melancholy cello notes in the beginning of “Emily,” which still contains the cosmic piano riffs and sequin strewn ambience that characterize “Zeros.” The song dips back into the eccentric pop-rock essence of the album with its zany instrumentals.
Distinguished by the raving guitar solo at the end of the song, “Twice Your Size” is emblematic of McKenna’s admiration for the classic rock era. He runs wild with raw guitar riffs and howling harmonies, screaming out lyrics that portray environmental collapse. With more direct lyrics than the rest of the album— “Regardless of what you believe in / Earth will change and we must grab our beds”—McKenna straightforwardly references Earth’s final days, brought on by human tendencies to wreak environmental havoc.
The album’s closing song, “Eventually Darling,” is a contemplative, soothing lullaby simultaneously signaling the finale of this space adventure and the end of a tumultuous summer. The song is tinged with a somber and pensive complexion that brings about a sense of finality, which is fitting for both the song’s placement in the album and the overarching meaning of McKenna’s story set among the stars.
In all its shimmery and extravagant chaos, “Zeros” is a conglomeration of dreamy pop-rock shades and otherworldly textures. While the album contains hints of different rock eras, such as synth, classic and psychedelic, they’re strung together with McKenna’s undeniable knack for originality and creative versatility. Hues of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and T. Rex shine through, while McKenna also demonstrates his gifted vocal range and home-grown space adventure ideas.
Despite singing songs that conjure end-of-world scenarios induced by humankind, McKenna playfully exhibits his energetic and childlike ambience that has branded him as one of the most prominent pop-rock voices of his generation. Compared to his debut album—one that was full of direct political calls to protest— this album’s lyrics are more nebulous, although they still provoke a powerful and ambiguous energy.
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