Londoner Declan McKenna dropped his second studio album, “Zeros,” on Sept. 4, launching himself into the sphere of 70s rock and space, which comes together to provide listeners with a cosmic escape into the world of McKenna’s imagination.
Widely known for his 2015 single “Brazil,” McKenna took a step back from the activism-focused tone of his debut album, “What Do You Think About The Car?” leaving “Zeros” more up for interpretation.
Beginning with the sound of a rocket launch, “You Better Believe!!!” thrusts the listener directly into the imaginary world of “Zeros.” I loved how McKenna smoothly shifted from discussing God and the future to raving about the British snack food Quavers, and Nike trainers.
“Be An Astronaut” follows the album’s opener with ease, pairing over-the-top production with a jumpy piano progression, which come together to create a sound reminiscent of Queen. Lyrically, the track delves into the childhood of Daniel, a recurring character discussed on the album who struggles with feeling alienated by the world. Personally, I loved the relatable narrative of this track, making it one of my favorites off the album.
Minimal in production, “The Key to Life on Earth” leads with relatable lyrics describing McKenna’s experience growing up in suburban London; “We’ve been held back for after-school meetings / They’ve got it in for me.” Fans of the British television series, “The End of the F***ing World,” may have seen the popular music video for this track, which features Alex Lawther, a lead actor from the series.
The album’s fourth track, “Beautiful Faces,” combines mellow guitar, rising synths and tastefully placed xylophone notes, which mesh together for an overall indie-pop feel. The track’s lyrics points out the forced smiles many influencers present on social media; “Beautiful faces smiling over us / Lift your hands up and lead us back home.”
Electro-sounding, “Daniel, You’re Still a Child” narrates the album’s main character’s feeling of alienation from the rest of the world; “Daniel, you know it, you wanted to / Find a place on your own like you always do.” Mixing electric guitar with pillowy synths, this track’s tone sounded ambient and spacey.
Folksy and funky, “Emily,” the album’s sixth track, feels very reminiscent of Harry Styles’s sound—something I’m completely okay with.
The bluntness of specifying Emily’s name, the plucking of the acoustic guitar, and British vocals, McKenna could have been talking about anything and I would have still been a fan.
“Twice Your Size” opens with a wavy guitar slide paired with muffled vocals from McKenna, leading to the same rocket launch sound heard on the album’s opening track. I appreciated the lyrics highlighting environmental issues facing the world; “Regardless of what you believe in / Earth will change and we must grab our beds.”
The album’s ninth track, “Sagittarius A*,” furthers McKenna’s environmental theme; “You don’t have to be sad about it, Mother Nature / Don’t let the boys try to doubt it, spoil our fun.” The track’s strong and passionate vocals are matched by its heavy guitar and clashing cymbals.
Another favorite of mine, “Eventually, Darling,” opens with twangy guitar and stripped-down vocals that pitch up during the chorus. Melancholic in tone, McKenna struggles to describe his feelings after a break-up; “The backyard balcony view / Was empty as hell without you,” the lyrics instantly took center-stage for me on this one.
I found “Zeros” unique from anything I’ve listened to recently, inspiring me to venture into more 70s music — something I am completely onboard with. McKenna told such meaningful and serious stories while keeping the album imaginative. Incorporating themes of space and the future, McKenna created a perfect 40 minutes of escapism.