MCKENNA,DECLAN - WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEACH[INDIES YELLOW VINYL]
Dispatched on Release
Declan McKenna is very pleased to share details of his new album, due for release in February 2024.
What Happened To The Beach? will be out 9th February, and is announced today alongside his new single, “Nothing Works”, and follows Declan's symphonic return “Sympathy” earlier this Summer. The album is released through Columbia Records, and is Declan's third album to date.
Declan on Nothing Works: “Nothing Works came out of the frustration of feeling boxed in and tied to expectation, but it is a euphoric tune, at its core it's a celebration of being true to yourself. In the track, I'm kind of mocking the idea that I'd just take advice that neglects my own intuition, and I often feel like nothing works when you're trying to match norms or expectations, because you can never please everyone, but if you trust your gut and your own motivations in any aspect of life, the parameters for feeling good in yourself are much simpler and more powerful.”
Declan landed in California last year to work with producer Gianluca Buccellati, whose previous projects include Arlo Parks and Lana Del Rey.
If Declan sought more space in his recordings, he needed to loosen up and let them breathe. Where previously his biggest tunes tended to hurtle along at 100mph, economic with the notion of simply taking a quick breath, Declan taught and trusted himself to take his time and let the listener soak in the ambience. The result, What Happened To The Beach?, is an album that revels in both space and atmosphere. It evokes the sunshine Declan basked in, and it returned to the UK sounding beautifully baked.
“Any time I tried to be too serious, the songs would get too heavy and the thing I was trying to get at, this idea of a release, was weighed down,” he adds. There is an undeniably buoyant energy across the album, at once best exemplified by Nothing Works' frustrations of record label interference and criticism. “The songs sound a lot like the music I listen to,” McKenna says about the new tunes, citing St Vincent (“She takes the guitar to a really cool place. Everything can be manipulated”) and Unknown Mortal Orchestra's hypnotic and spacey energy as influences.
Naturally, an album written in response to the intensity of the last few years, both personal and globally, has moments of darkness running through it. The demons McKenna once focused his writing on as a teen, such as corrupt FIFA officials or the oppressive grip of the right-wing media, are left aside this time around. “If every song features a lyrical statement, then it loses some of its impact, too. I haven't let go of that aspect of myself, but I don't want to live out that style forever” he notes.
For this smart, sharp British singer-songwriter, the success of his previous records brought about a period of ill-health while touring America, leading a doctor to recommend therapy. It was a stride out of his comfort zone, but something McKenna soon found hugely rewarding. “It was the first time I'd been able to open up and unload,” he says. “It helped me deal with the pressures of making music and mature as a person.”
What Happened To The Beach? is an album full of tone and colour. Musically, it's a bit weirder and wonky, and the sound of a songwriter enjoying himself and gleefully defying expectations. “In the past few years there has been a bit of weight behind making music,” he says. “I wanted to open up and not worry about things so much. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in the past when I just needed to drop the intensity a bit and have some fun.”
McKenna is still in his early 20s but is approaching a new era in his journey as a songwriter. He is aware that writing a more personal album, particularly one that focuses on joy over disaster, might suggest a line drawn in the sand between Declan and Declan 2.0. “I will always speak my mind with music, but we live in a time where the conversations I wanted to contribute to previously are much more out in the open now.”
Following an early evening slot on the main stage of the Reading and Leeds Festival behind Billie Eilish, and some extensive touring of the US already this year, Declan McKenna is ready for the next bow. Whilst the returning single of Sympathy suggested something akin to the harmonious jangle of sixties pop, it was an outlier on a record that evokes a sense of atmosphere and colour. Declan McKenna has always been a smart, literate songwriter but with What Happened To The Beach? he's still all those things, but primarily he's just down for a good time.
Rock & Pop