The writing was on the wall from the get-go: partnering with Björk’s producer, Damian Taylor, touring with Robyn, and the synth heavy, self-empowering anthem “I’m Just Me” all pointed to Diamond Rings‘ sophomore LP being an exercise in synth-pop perfectionism. Any one holding out for The D’Urbervilles reunion would have to wait; John O (nee O’Regan) has to conquer the pop world first.
There’s a lot more meet on the bones of Free Dimensional than there was on its predecessor, Special Affections. These 10 tracks have been fleshed out with deeper bass, flashier synths, and bigger production values that do away with the fumbling-in-the-bedroom sound of the first record. The quirkiness of that album is also gone, replaced by a swaggering confidence and certainty. “Runaway Love” is one of the album’s standouts, unafraid to reference John O’s past as an indie guitar band front man while embracing his glitzy side. The aforementioned “I’m Just Me” still packs a solid punch all these months later and should earn Diamond Rings a Juno nod in the dance song category for sure.
Free Dimensional isn’t the perfect collection of pop that it could be, though. It’s spotty as far as songwriting goes, showing a disparate divide between John O’s intuitive sense of melody and some unremarkable track choices. I keep seeing Depeche Mode referenced in articles about this record and I think people are getting their 80s Vince Clarke synth-pop signals crossed, because Free Dimensional has more in common with Erasure’s The Innocents than it does Black Celebration. Personally, I think Diamond Rings would benefit from more Martin Gore (who would be an excellent choice to produce album #3–just putting it out there, John), from a darker edge, a deeper soul, that would add a whole new dimension to Diamond Rings’ growing repertoire.
Free Dimensional is released today, October 23, 2012 on Secret City Records.
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