Declan McKenna has come a long way from the young Hertfordshire lad who won Glastonbury Festival’s 2015 Emerging Talent Competition. Just a couple of years down the line he’s unleashed his debut album, What Do You Think About the Car? although for many fans the record will feel like a familiar ride.
One of the most sought-after new acts in the country, McKenna started off supporting a number of artists on the road before word started to spread and it wasn’t long before he surpassed those he once supported. Now with a sizeable army of fans backing his every move, it’s time for Declan McKenna to improve his position, a mission that his debut release will certainly allow him to conquer.
On his first full-length release, McKenna offers up no hidden surprises. The majority of the tracklist will have been heard before for fans who have caught his live shows, although with the help of reputable LA producer James Ford, the pop prodigy has managed to capture the thrill and excitement of his live persona and bottled it within the core of the album.
Latest single “Humongous” kicks off proceedings on a bone-shakingly exciting note. Some might say leave the best for last, although this is advice that McKenna has clearly chosen not to follow this time around. A bittersweet anthem for the ages, the album opener sees the singer edge closer and closer to the pop perfection he’s been chasing for quite some time.
The track that broke him, “Brazil” comes next with a dose of fizzing alt-pop. A long-time fan favourite, the sub-five-minute cut features an utterly infectious sing-along chorus that you’ll be hard-pushed to find yourself not humming after an initial listen.
Smart, engaging lyrics are a widespread and continual theme on McKenna’s initial offering. “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” sees the artist focus on the concept of a young person feeling helpless in today’s world and was inspired by the tragic events that took place in Paris in November 2015. The fear of an uncertain future is enough to terrify any young person and Declan communicates these feelings wonderfully on the track, it’s an added bonus that it’s gloriously hooky too.
Elsewhere, “Bethlehem” is socially aware and tackles the issue of religion being used to justify hate crime. Crowned with a clever chorus, the tune communicates its message with a wild body of energy backing it fully. “Isombard” presents a more feral sound and tells of how a US newsreader becomes progressively more confused by what he’s trying to say and is inspired by a poem belonging to E.E Cummings. It might not be the straightforward pop that his peers make but Declan has never been one to conform and this album is a shining example of that.
Quietly catchy, “Make Me Your Queen” rouses plenty of emotion and slows the pace down, even if only for the briefest of pauses. Shimmering synths feature in the chorus for a richer overall sound. “Mind” is always a pleasure to hear live but sounds just as incredible on record. Almost lullaby-like in places, the track oozes the easy-listening appeal that can be quite hard to master but is something that Declan nails in one.
Final track, “Listen To Your Friends” is deceptively soft and simple but will have a massive impact on listeners. Making everyone sit up and pay close attention, the mid-tempo ballad banger is the perfect way to close the first chapter of Declan’s story. He’s come a long way in such a short space of time and this track certainly reflects that.
Opening with a rush of pure pop before moving onto more serious topics, McKenna’s debut bursts into life with a point to prove and those aims have certainly been fulfilled. With no surprises up its sleeve, this is perhaps something that worked in the singer’s favour – a focused introduction to Declan McKenna is what we get, and it'll allow him to build and serve up some new tricks and treats on future albums.