Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

arts music review

COLUMN: Djo’s sophomore album ‘Decide’ is an expertly produced odyssey about change


The long-awaited sophomore album, “Decide,” from Djo, Joe Keery’s long-haired alter ego, was finally released Sept. 16. 

I had been waiting for this day since fall of 2019 when Djo’s hypnotic “Chateau (Feel Alright)” from his debut album “Twenty Twenty” first found its way to my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. The psych-rock album quickly became one of my all-time favorites, and I was ecstatic when Keery finally announced that new music was on the way. 

“Decide” is the appropriate next step in Djo’s evolution as an artist. The album opens with “Runner,” an energetic track that features distorted vocals and repetitive lyrics about longing to change and grow in an internet-obsessed society that discourages progress. This track establishes the album’s main themes and overall sound.  

Related: [COLUMN: Harry Styles was right: ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is a movie that definitely feels like a movie

Keery, who has been in the spotlight since “Stranger Things” took the world by storm in 2016, showcases vulnerability when singing about his internal struggles to stay true to himself and not get lost in the convenient escapism of the digital world. Some could argue the album is over-produced, but I believe the synthetic sound enhances Keery’s exploration of our technology-dependent society. 

He ponders how this sudden fame affected him in “Half Life,” an explosive track about social media and stardom. He sings “in the age of excess, less may be the best for me,” alluding to him unplugging himself from the digital landscape. This makes sense considering Keery deleted his personal Instagram account and hasn’t been active on Twitter since January 2021. Keery confronts the listener and his own dependency on external validation by asking, “you think these people really care for you?” in one of the song’s most hard-hitting moments. While the size of his fanbase is massive, he can’t truly depend on them for fulfillment. 

In “On and On,” Keery sings about doomscrolling and how detrimental social media can be for our mental health and grasp on reality. The catchy chorus has an appropriately lethargic pace and cynical tone, but he offers us reassurance in the bridge: “something is about to break, the fault line has been fractured, maybe it’s not too late.” 

Keery reflects on his past self and life before fame in “End of Beginning,” one of the album’s sonically unique tracks. He leads a powerful chant in the bridge that will undoubtedly be surreal when performed live with a crowd: “you take the man out of the city, not the city out the man.” The song is an ode to Chicago, the home of Keery’s alma mater and previous band, Post Animal

Related: [COLUMN: Maya Hawke’s ‘MOSS’ shines brightest in its risks, rarely takes them

The album is also unexpectedly romantic, which can be seen in some of the more playful tracks like “Fool.” Keery’s longtime partner, actress Maika Monroe, seems to have been a muse for him this time around, as he references her in lyrics like “some people smile and open up your eyes” in the album’s seventh track, “I Want Your Video.” 

These romantic and thematic threads come together in “Change,” the album’s first single and ninth track. The song is incredibly lively and sweet; unlike some of the previous tracks, the lyrics aren’t cynical at all. Instead, Keery sings about relinquishing the fear of change and seeing his true potential through the eyes of someone close to him. 

While I wish there was a bit more variety in the overall sound of the record, the album is undeniably a cohesive work. The closing track, “Slither” leaves more to be desired, but overall, the catchy beats and confrontational lyrics solidify “Decide” as one of the best albums of the year. 

Get stories like this in your inbox