Joe Keery, the actor behind the iconic Steve Harrington in the Netflix Original Series Stranger Things, released his sophomore album, ‘Decide‘ under his artist name, Djo on September 16, 2022, via AWAL. Keery started making music in 2014 with his former band Post Animal, but left in 2019 to create his own sounds. His first album, Twenty Twenty, went relatively under the radar as fans didn’t realize it was the hit actor until later. However, it still developed a cult-following that’s been waiting for Djo to release his next collection of material.
“Runner”, the first song on the album, is techno, rock and roll, and trip-hop all in one. It sets the feel of DECIDE immediately, beautifully leading into the second track “Gloom”. The song sounds like something out of the 80s, full of electric notes that pair with the heavy drum beat.
The third song, “Half Life”, is a real, raw look at Keery’s life after achieving massive fame. He sings, “I see/ I let my ego get the best of me/ In the age of excess/ Less may be best for me/ God, it makes me sad.” The following track, “Fool”, still touches on emotional themes of changing yourself to appease an audience. In DECIDE, we’re seeing Keery open up about the struggles he’s facing, singing complicated lyrics while still maintaining a steady, sick beat.
“On and On”, the fifth song, covers what it’s like to be addicted to social media. “Your family is in our thoughts/ Our heart goes out to you/ Say a prayer, light a digital candle and then scroll away”. This song, as well as the next one, “End of Beginning”, are reflective tracks reminiscent of bands like The Cars and The Police; it’s Keery’s usage of synth that elevates the keyboard and guitar sounds to be something captivating within techno-rock. “End of Beginning” takes a look back to Keery’s past, specifically his time with his former band Post Animal, a Chicago-based psychedelic rock group. “And when I’m back in Chicago, I feel it/ Another version of me/ I was in it/ I wave goodbye to the end of the beginning.”
The most experimental part of DECIDE takes place towards the end. “Is That All It Takes”, the tenth track, is a robotic interlude with a slowly building beat that leads directly into “Go For It”, the eleventh song playing right into it’s hardcore sound before slowing down to another piece of trip-rock.
“Figure You Out” holds one of the few times you hear Keery’s voice synth-free. It’s a track examining the people of the world, subtly questioning why we don’t help each other. “If the money just wasn’t there/ And the power had gone/ And these people were just like you/ Tell me when would you lend a hand?”
DECIDE closes with “Slither”, an almost EDM-like piece that keeps the electro feel we’ve heard throughout the album, while Keery sings a mantra about the pressure to keep innovating. “It’s growing larger/ I’m pushing harder.” The thirteen-track album is experimental and definitely something unexpected, but it creates a whole new sound for not only Djo, but everyone who gives it a listen. Bringing in elements of electronica to merge with rock, he’s invented a truly danceable album that still speaks his truth, and tells the story he wants to be told.
‘DECIDE’ is available for purchase here.