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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

REVIEW: Djo’s ‘Decide’ is an 80’s enthused synth-pop trip through young adulthood

Photo by Sam Baughn
Djo’s “Decide” released Sept. 16

Joe Keery is perhaps best known as the star of “Stranger Things,” who portrays Steve Harrington. But he is more than just an actor. Before he found fame through the hit Netflix series, Joe Keery was a member of Chicago psychedelic rock band Post Animal. Over the last few years, he has established himself as a solo artist through the synth-pop psychedelic rock project Djo

Djo began with the release of the album  “Twenty Twenty.” Released in 2019, the project is relaxed compared to the artist’s previous work with Post Animal. Three years later, Djo’s ‘Decide’ is a robust and consistent follow-up project that reworks 80’s synth wave and indie rock elements in exciting ways. 

‘Decide’ is a concise project, clocking in at 13 songs that total up to 36 minutes of runtime. Djo wears his influences on his sleeve, with sounds reminiscent of Daft Punk and Depeche Mode woven throughout the track list. Though “Decide” feels sonically familiar, it doesn’t feel recycled, due in large part to the way Djo reworks and mixes these sounds. 

The album opens with the sleek and psychedelic ‘Runner,’ which leads directly into ‘Gloom’ a funk rock track that was featured as one of the album’s lead singles. The project switches sound from song to song, flip-flopping from retro R&B pop like “I Want Your Video,” to tracks like “End of Beginning” which evoke a more familiar psych rock sound. 

‘Climax’ is my favorite track off the project, with a classic synth-pop instrumental that sounds like it could sit right next to Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” on the “Drive” soundtrack. Meanwhile, the filter over Djo’s voice sounds distinctly similar to Julian Casablanca’s voice on the Daft Punk track “Instant Crush,” a vocal element that combines perfectly with the ethereal synthesized beat. It’s the perfect example of Djo utilizing his influences in a dynamic way, that keeps much of the project from feeling derivative. 

Throughout this record, Djo explores his early adulthood and does a good job of balancing personal yet relatable songwriting. Tracks like “On And On” comment on social media’s desensitization of emotional events such as love and loss, while tracks like “Gloom” detail the need to leave a toxic friendship, an experience that is familiar to many young adults. 

The themes of young adulthood and movement through life come to a head on the track “End of Beginning.” While this track sees Djo singing about returning to Chicago and reconnecting with himself, the themes of self-discovery and connection with your past are ones that resonated with me on my first listen. 

Overall this project was incredibly entertaining. The varied instrumentation and well written lyrics combine to create a dynamic project that kept me on my toes throughout my first listen. No song sounds the same and it’s this variety that makes the album so fun to listen too. Djo’s inspiration is wide ranging, and though comparisons will almost certainly be drawn to a variety of artists like The Talking Heads or Daft Punk, Djo manages to separate himself from those he draws influence from.

While “Decide” does suffer from some repetitive instrumentation and clunky songwriting, the project as a whole is an exciting addition to the rising artist’s discography. Djo’s honest and engaging lyrics combine with a wide range of synth wave and electronic sounds, to create a sophomore album that further establishes Djo as a solo artist worthy of recognition. Overall, I give this album 8/10 stars.  

This story was written by Sam Baughn. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Sam Baughn
Sam Baughn, General Manager for Marquette Radio
Sam Baughn is a senior from Stoughton, Wisconsin, majoring in Digital Media and minoring in English Literature. He is the General Manager of Marquette Radio for the 2023-2024 year. Outside of his work with MUR, Sam pursues amateur photography and enjoys cooking and baking. He is immensely excited to work with an incredible team to push MUR to new heights, build systems for long-term growth and create new events and programming.

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    StephanieSep 27, 2022 at 12:03 pm

    Great review! Looking forward to listening to this on my run today & hopefully discovering a new artist!