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REVIEW: DJO – DECIDE

Strangers Things star Joe Keery returns with his DJO moniker to bring us another selection of alt nostalgic hits in his latest album ‘DECIDE’.

DJO’s debut ‘twenty twenty’ saw the multi talented Keery delve into 80s synth laden sugary pop. Hits such as ‘Roddy’ and ‘Chateau’ displayed a real talent and ability to construct swirling,atmospheric and enjoyable pop music. The album seemingly lifting influence from Stranger Things, Keery offering an alternate soundtrack. A thoroughly enjoyable album that deserved more mainstream limelight.

‘DECIDE’ sees DJO dip his toes into a more alt rock sound whilst retaining the synths that drew the plaudits from the first record. Opener track ‘Runner’ is a box of surprises, its oscillating flat synths create a science fiction landscape that remain a constant theme throughout . Keery’s echoed reverb vocals buried deep behind a wall of 2D chimes; An unexpected and off kilter start which highlights a determination to take this record in a new direction.

‘Gloom’ is the standout of the record. Its groove filled beat combined with a marching guitar riff and Keery’s vocal inflections evoke early Talking Heads. Keery finding the right balance between experimentation and catchy pop sensibilities.

‘Half Life’ sees DJO at his most experimental to date. Reverb heavy with sci fi synth idiosyncratically chiming over a dulled drum machine beat. When the song breaks into its climax Keery demonstrates he still maintains the capability to write great sing along pop melodies. Tracks like this bear the fruit of DJO’s labour; a real triumph in creating original tunes with a 80s throwback.

‘On and On’ sees Keery talking about the perils of social media and the anxiety it can induce “scrolling on and on”. The track is brimmed with psychedelia, highlighting the morose nature of technology “feed the algorithm son”. As the song waivers into uncharted territory with its aggression and piercing guttural drone, Keery brings us back offering hope that all is not lost “maybe it’s not too late to learn to love each other”. Keery concludes the track with his simple personal remedy to the addiction of incessantly checking your phone “take a break. Go to bed”

“I want your video”; a concoction of Childish Gambino and Prince with a DJO twist. Keery lauds a certain someone in his personal life “you know just who you are”. A dance floor filler of infatuation and admiration for someone that oozes confidence. Just as you get your bearings the song abruptly ends. This is emblematic of Keery’s wider vision for the record; keeping us guessing where each track will end up sonically.

Interesting ideas are explored throughout the record but a handful of tracks begin with a quirky premise but never build upon this and end ultimately unsatisfying. Despite its flaws, ‘DECIDE’ showcases a more assured Keery, having the confidence to experiment with song structures and sound. A partial abandonment of formulaic synth pop sees DJO create an interesting and more rewarding body of work that highlights a path to success he is hopefully set to take.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Key Track: ‘Gloom’

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