“There’s so many places you can turn to now if you feel lost, and that’s kind of a big part of the story of the album. Where do people turn to when the world rejects them and tells them who they are isn’t valid?” That’s how 21-year old British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna described his new album Zeros.
McKenna, who grew to fame with his 2015 single “Brazil” has been on many people’s radar as an up-and-coming indie-alternative artist. With his 2017 win of BBC Music’s Introducing Artist of the Year, he further solidified his place within the scene, and began to gain worldwide attention.
After his 2017 release of What Do You Think About the Car? McKenna went on a brief hiatus, making his grand return with his 2019 single “British Bombs.” Then on January 30th, 2020, he announced his second full-length album Zeros. The album was set to release on May 15th of this year; however, due to multiple setbacks, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the album was pushed back to its final release date of September 4th. Throughout this gap, McKenna dropped four singles from the album: “Beautiful Faces,” “The Key to Life on Earth,” “Daniel, You’re Still A Child” and “Be An Astronaut.”
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I probably listened to each of these tracks at least 50 times, but personally I think “The Key to Life on Earth” provided the best image of what Zeros would look like. From its catchy chorus to its bizarre music video that starred McKenna and his famous look alike, End of the F***ing World actor Alex Lawther, wearing cockroach costumes and eating beans, the song has a very “out-there” theme, which carries over into the album as a whole.
Zeros has a run time of roughly 40 minutes, and a 10-song track list that includes everything from the twangy childlike sounding “Emily” to the loud and hard hitting “Rapture.” The whole album leans heavily on guitars and synthesizers, which creates this almost other-worldly tone that adds to its already space-like themes.
On my initial listen, two songs stuck out to me – “Rapture” and “Eventually, Darling.” “Rapture” is the eighth track on the album and starts off very techno-y before transforming into an epic chorus that sounds like it belongs in a dystopian movie’s fight scene. The whole song has this level of drama to it, which elevates the heavy guitar and higher pitched singing. “Eventually, Darling,” is the tenth and final track of the album. It has a mellow tone to it, and somewhat longing lyrics which make it the perfect song to round out the album. It makes me think of that final episode of a TV show, where you see everyone depart and go their separate ways, unknown when they’ll meet again.
Throughout the album McKenna takes the listener through this journey of growing up. From tracks like “You Better Believe!!!” and “Be An Astronaut” kicking off everything energetically and hopeful, to the later tracks such as “Twice Your Size” and “Sagittarius A*” which gives off a more mature, trying to prove yourself tone. The whole album encompasses this theme of trying to escape reality, while dealing with the everyday.
Overall, I think Declan McKenna did a great job of creating an album full of life and energy, and I’d highly recommend it to people who are looking for something upbeat to listen to.