Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Declan McKenna finds a new creative identity on his third record, What Happened To The Beach?

"What Happened To The Beach?"

Release date: 09 February 2024
Declan Mc Kenna What Happened To The Beach cover
07 February 2024, 09:00 Written by Finlay Holden

At just 25 years of age, the already twice-crowned prince of indie is now entering a third entirely unique era of his art.

Leaving behind the focused introduction of his 2017 debut and the cosmic scope of 2020’s excellent space-rock effort Zeros, Declan McKenna is instead honing his energy entirely inwards to dissect his sense of self and encourage listeners to gain confidence in their own identities.

When lead single “Sympathy” provided a potent albeit jarring transition into this muddled world, fans knew they were in for a delightfully specific, vulnerable and honest ride - asserting that “you don’t need to be clever”, the eccentric track asked us to allow our stupid and carefree sides to shine through, to not overthink everything we do, and to live as our true selves. As Dec puts it, “make peace and discover”.

Similar affirmations play out over the rest of the record, with the subdued brass and loose groove of “Mezzanine” again emphasising individuality (“you’re someone no one else can be”), and the soothing chorus of “Elevator Hum” assessing that the “mechanisms” of polite society and fake niceties are breaking down - they are not always worth adhering to, especially not if it means sacrificing authenticity.

What Happened To The Beach? might be a completely unexpected turn in sonic and lyrical form from an artist we thought we knew pretty well already, but it’s also 100% genuine Declan McKenna. These 12 tracks offer insight into his journey towards self-acceptance and release that assurance to others with open arms and a cheeky grin. It’s almost strange to see the singer sitting still in one place - his mind - but it’s a testament to his creative development that this is not only possible but comfortable.

There is some internal wrestling to get there, though. While fun to witness, the decadence of “Mulholland's Dinner and Wine” proves that the material possession of “a boring apartment and all of the drugs” does not equal joy; “The Phantom Buzz (Kick In)” later chases an exciting high that contradicts the groundedness we should be aspiring to, and the beautiful and haunting notes of the penultimate cut “It’s an Act” detail the painful experience of watching a loved one adopt a deceptive façade.

“Nothing Works” perhaps best embodies the ups alongside the downs, with a dash of career analysis adding to a sense of fun that remains very much intact - just watch the insane music video to squash any doubt of that. This chaotic offering summarises a mindset that occupies its own space in a faultless discography and showcases a rarely-seen self-awareness that has the ever-innovative songwriter trailblazing a third and likely not final time.

This stunningly ambitious yet surprisingly restrained album is a personal inspection of Declan’s current life, putting politics (mostly) aside and abandoning grandeur to think about himself for a minute, gifting listeners a vessel for empathy along the way. As you take What Happened To The Beach? for a second, third and inevitably fourth spin, it feels like getting to know him all over again, on a more direct and relatable level than ever before. With metal detector in hand, McKenna is finding a new sound, a new identity, a glorious new side to his creativity - and we’re right there with him, searching through the sand to find a meaning for ourselves.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next