Declan McKenna’s new album is a dreamy and honest welcome into his new sound

You might recognize the name Declan McKenna from his viral track, Brazil, which debuted in 2015 when he was just 16 years old. Years later, this song became a TikTok sensation and has gained the British singer-songwriter worldwide recognition. In the spring of 2023, London-born McKenna set out on his Big Return tour across North America, allowing fans a live performance of the first songs he has released since 2021. Taking a turn in his career, this album says goodbye to McKenna’s old musical style and brings fans into a whole new world. At just a first glance, fans can see his intention of creating a simplistic, dreamy sensation with his new tunes.

After releasing the first single in July 2023, Declan McKenna has blessed the world with his highly anticipated third studio album, What Happened To The Beach?, an experimental journey that serves as proof of the artist’s musical evolution. With some tracks early in the running for song of the summer, this album is spirited, and honest, and will be sure to get people dancing.

We are welcomed into the album with Wobble, a short track which pairs uplifting string instrumentals with eerie vocals, setting a slightly ominous tone with its contrast and creating an aura of uncertainty about what to expect from the rest. Following this, Elevator Hum builds slowly, beginning with soft vocals and growing into a dreamy tune that will leave you feeling elated.

I Write The News gives listeners a more raw, Beatles-like vocal performance from McKenna, transforming into a haunting rock track that brings forward meaningful issues in its lyrics. Feature single Sympathy is a whimsical and upbeat song that leaves listeners feeling lifted, offering insights into navigating one’s emotions with lyrics such as “If you don’t speak your thoughts aloud, you just feel them forever”. 

Following, Mullholland’s Dinner and Wine begins with a groovy melody and is an enjoyable ride as McKenna’s creative vocals admit that stardom might not be everything. This album carries an effortlessly joyful, and slightly psychedelic, vibe throughout, combining wholesome lyricism with feel-good guitar melodies. The songs are pleasingly honest and offer a way of diving into important topics while remaining encouraged and satisfied.

Diving into the album’s second half, Nothing Works kicks off swiftly, pulling listeners directly into a quick and cheerful melody, masking the feeling of hopelessness behind the lyrics – “I try to fix myself but nothing works”. This track shows us a sense of self-awareness from McKenna, proving that the success he has achieved so far hasn’t affected his ability to be humble and vulnerable. Next, The Phantom Buzz (Kick In) keeps the tempo high with experimental rock energy, presenting a forceful guitar riff that is sure to get stuck in fans’ heads. 

As the album moves towards its close, Honest Test offers a simplistic, compassionate tone with once again exquisite vocals coming from McKenna. Next up, Mezzanine brings listeners in instantly with a soft and catchy guitar melody, gradually building in volume and bliss.

The penultimate track, It’s An Act, shifts the tone of the album, pulling listeners into the mind of McKenna as he opens up about life on the road. This insight into his hardships is refreshing and exposing, and is yet another instance of him using his music to shed light on difficult topics. The album’s closing track, 4 More Years, circles us back to the eerie and dramatic tone we were met with in the opener. The ambiguous repetition of “Four more years”, and the cutoff finisher of “It could be a cool end to-” leaves fans at a tense cliffhanger, wondering what this could mean for the next moves in McKenna’s career.

What Happened To The Beach? is ambitious and exhilarating, launching listeners onto an accelerated ride through McKenna’s personal experiences, marking an exit from his earlier musical persona. The songs are effortlessly joyful, and leave listeners feeling delighted and energized, with a sense of getting to know the artist. Declan McKenna has shown the world that the almost four-year wait was worth it, once again setting the bar high in the UK indie music scene, and leaving fans eager for more.

With the release of this album, Declan McKenna will be performing a number of intimate album shows and signings across the UK over the next two weeks. He’s declared a new identity for himself and will be taking fans along the ride to discover who he really is.

Listen to What Happened To The Beach? 👇🏼

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