Declan McKenna found the beach in new summery album

British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna released his third album “What Happened to the Beach?” this past Friday. 

McKenna’s career started back in 2015 when he won the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition and self-released the track “Brazil.” The song was a criticism of the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil. 

Since then he has released his indie album “What Do You Think About the Car?” in 2017 and “Zeros,” a glam rock album, in 2020. Gen Z immediately gravitated towards him due to his sound and affinity to speaking out on social issues, especially in his music. 

“What Happened to the Beach?” follows a release of four singles all featured on the album and overall leans more into the indie genre than his previous album.

One such catchy, upbeat single is “Nothing Works.” The song touches on McKenna’s Gen Z fanbase, his grapple with his record label concerning his new music and if it strays too far from what fans expect. Evident in lyrics like “I sing the song, and you didn’t like the words / I try to fix myself but nothing works.” 

The song also addresses the concern that his music isn’t as focused on social issues as it used to be. Though, in this song, McKenna assures his label that his fans are “big enough now” and probably don’t need to be reminded of this in every song he writes. But McKenna indulges them anyway, with a chorus starting with “but, of course, I’ll re-implore you / on the kind of nation that we have.”

Despite the struggle highlighted in “Nothing Works,” McKenna’s streak of using his platform and his creative drive for advocacy is still present on this album with songs like “I Write The News” and “WOBBLE.” 

“What Happened to the Beach?” is definitely preparing us for warmer weather with its cheerful instrumentals and lighthearted yet contemplative lyrics. This is evident in songs like “Sympathy,” “Elevator Hum” and “Mezzanine.”

The album also features a song called “Breath Of Light,” which is probably one of my favorites off the album. It is a groovy track that makes use of fun autotune and fuzzy guitar sounds that definitely paint a picture of sunshine and blue skies that help give the album a summery feel. 

Not to mention “The Phantom Buzz (Kick In)” which is quite obviously about a strain of marijuana titled “Phantom,” with lyrics like “when it kicks in / ooh, it kicks everythin’.” This track and another called “Honest Test” heavily contribute to the vibe of the album, both being funky and a little woozy.   

Another song on this album titled “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine,” combines snippets of McKenna’s experiences in both Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. This was the last number to be released as a single before the album was launched, speaking to its snappy nature and uplifting sound that helped fans understand the tone of the upcoming album. 

Among the boozy and bright-sounding tracks, there are also some mellow numbers that really help pull the album together. 

One such track is “It’s an Act,” containing dulcet guitar and some distant trumpets. The song uses the imagery of “putting on a show” to demonstrate the way the addressee is not acting like themselves in the aftermath of growing apart from McKenna and is losing their usual composure. 

The lyrics “the truth would like to see you cold dead and buried and / the truth is, I miss you like hell” in the bridge reveal McKenna’s feelings toward the separation and possibly the addressees reasons for keeping up the act. 

There are some songs on this album that feel a little more experimental and are less likely to make it onto one of my playlists. That is not to say they aren’t good. Some are great, like “I Write the News.” I just feel like they work better when listened to with the rest of the album as a whole, rather than by themselves. 

McKenna sticks to his style in this album while also being a little more offbeat than what the fans are used to. Definitely give it a listen to help you make it through the last weeks of winter and help illuminate your summer playlists.

4/5 stars


Featured photo courtesy of @thedeclanmckenna, Instagram