Everyone loves a good vanity project. From Keanu and Dogstar to Gosling and Dead Man’s Bones, the movie and music world ofter intersects. That’s not to say that all these projects that actors do are worthwhile or even something to consider but when they are they are usually pretty top notch. Joe Keery, who is known to most as Steve from Stranger Things, has been acting as well as making music for quite awhile now and on his new record as DJO, out this Friday, September 16th, Keery proves that this isn’t just some silly vanity project.
The album overwhelms with busy arpeggiators, bubbly synth bass lines and some truly inspired drumming but it’s just not the production that stands out. Keery’s voice is amazing. Fluctuating between falsetto and deep bass, there’s nary a hiccup in sight. The album takes its cues from Bowie and Sparks but it’s not derivative of these touchstones. There’s a freshness here that truly sounds exciting.
The lead track, “Runner” keeps you on your toes. The song plays out in three different movements. Every time you feel like it’s coming to its conclusion, it surprises you with another part that has its own unique and special moments. It’s rare that you hear a song that could be a banging club anthem that you could also relax at home and dig deep into. It’s not exactly literature but between the tracks production and the insistent hook of “Love and hate decide/Money grows and dies/People never change/But I have to try”, it is quite affecting. On the amazing Sparks-y sounding “Gloom”, Keery surprises with some very interesting vocal harmonies and a wry sense of humour. He sings, “I know, my hair looked good in the bathroom at the bar/Turns out, I left my wallet at the bathroom bar/That’s life/That’s death/Your girlfriend scares me/She’s got bad breath”. It’s as silly as it is charming. Elsewhere, on the track “On and On”, that comes off as a lost Tame Impala hit, Keery continues to utilize some surprising arrangements that culminate in something that is effortlessly and infinitely listenable.
Yes, the actor to musician pipeline is littered with hundreds of side hustle career carcasses but that is not the case here with DJO and DECIDE. It’s a bold outing from anyone, regardless of day job, and one that we hope we hear more of, on a recording or live, in the very near future. Everyone, for good and bad reasons, loves a vanity project but with DJO, Joe Keery actually gives you something inspired to truly love.
Pre-order Decide by Djo HERE
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