Today, Declan McKenna announces his second albumZeros, which will be released on May 15th on Tomplicated Records. The album, produced by Jay Joyce with mixing by Spike Stent, was recorded in Nashville and is his first since his critically acclaimed debut, 2017’s What Do You Think About The Car?, which NPR Music hailed as “a powerful, clever album” and lead Rolling Stone to name him an “Artist You Need to Know.” Said McKenna about Zeros: “In terms of my artistic development, it feels a major step on from my first record. With this album, if I’m performing as a character, I wanted it to give it everything- all the artists that I love like Dylan, Nick Cave or Bowie, are great storytellers because they give their characters really intense, sometimes strange voices.” Declan McKenna’s Zeros is available for pre-order on all formats here.
McKenna today also shares the first single from Zeros, “Beautiful Faces.” The song and video, directed by Will Hopper (Idles, Slaves, Marika Hackman), are emblematic of the album, and blur reality with the virtual façade which overlays it. McKenna shares: “Beautiful Faces is about young people in the modern world and how intimidating it can be. How scary it is to see so much and feel as though you’re doing so little, so I wanted it to be a big song… Scary big. It very much relates to now, but I wanted to reimagine social media in this future-sphere where it has become even more immersive so that we cannot see where it ends, and we begin. It’s a song about aesthetic beauty – literal beauty- but also the false power we give to people and relinquish from ourselves. It’s purposefully vague because we will project our own anxieties onto it, in the same way that we allow these vapid exchanges with one another to metamorphose into monsters that don’t actually exist, but to us they actually do.” Watch the music video for “Beautiful Faces” here.
For Zeros, 21-year-old Mckenna decamped from his native London to Nashville, wanting to be away from the familiarity and consistency of home. He wrote all the music for the album himself and was backed on it by his long-time band. Like Nashville, the album is playful, wonderfully strange and intensely musical, and the themes and McKenna’s concerns are familiar if evolved. There is the anxiety and disconnection of an entire generation born into a mess they did not create, as well as their alienation from a world where there seem to be multiple realities: social media, fake news, post-truth.
The albums opening track, combines a retro, 70s space-race inspired energy with a modern tale of anxiety. Musically and lyrically, it provides a perfect blueprint to the album. Throughout the album, McKenna also manages to encapsulate both a very human psyche and a more absurd, dystopian future. The songs, while they stand as a reflection of our own culture, are also the warped carnival mirror- funny, bizarre, otherworldly but always close enough to see a familiar face staring back.
Ultimately Zeros is a world-building, not destroying, album. The unshakeable confidence and boldness of McKenna’s voice, as well as the stories he tells, are reinforced by the empathy and compassion with which he tells them. The “wisdom beyond his years” label McKenna’s often charged with stems from this as well: his recognition that as diverse as his generation is, their struggles with the modern world are similar, and that as disquieting and absurd as these experiences might feel, no one is in it alone.