All the Time
Put Me On
I'm Just Me
Hand Over My Heart
(I Know) What I'm Made Of
A to Z
Stand My Ground
Day & Night
Free Dimensional retains the melodicism, clever juxtapositions, and lyrical honesty that garnered kudos for Diamond Rings' 2010 debut, Special Affections. What's different this time around is how the songs were conceived and produced. "I wanted the first album to have that homespun quality," John O explains. Back then, he was wary of too many high-tech bells and whistles. "A big part of being afraid of something is not understanding it," he admits. "Once I became more comfortable with the medium of electronic music, it was only natural to want to improve."
The success of Special Affections had afforded Diamond Rings some amazing opportunities, like supporting Swedish pop star Robyn on her 2011 North American tour, which in turn fed John O's desire to step up his game. "Spending a month on the road with her was mind-blowing. I learned a great deal about what it takes to make music that has a lot of impact. That was a big part of this whole experience: coming to terms with the fact that I wanted to make something direct and impactful, and that I could trust other people to help me do it, but at the end of the day it would still feel like me." Hence John O's decision to enlist producer Damian Taylor (Björk, Austra, Robyn, The Prodigy) to help bring Diamond Rings out of the bedroom, both literally and figuratively, on Free Dimensional.
Taylor was already a fan, impressed as soon as he heard Diamond Rings' debut single "All Yr Songs" back in 2009. "I immediately recognized a strong element of a 'classic' songwriting approach, but was hooked by the fact that he went absolutely contrary to the regular strategy of trying to make his music sound classic, which to me is a recipe for making bland, uninteresting drivel," says the producer. "Instead, John O turned the whole thing on its head, with a healthy sense of humor, while keeping his music honest and emotionally resonant." Taylor's mission was to retain all those special qualities, while showing John O how judicious use of production tools could actually heighten the ability to connect with listeners.
To mark the announcement of his 2013 Runaway Love Tour, Diamond Rings is kicking it elementary school and offering up a baker’s dozen of oversized Valentines in the form of his limited-edition heavy-weight silkscreen posters. Thirteen lucky winners across Canada will receive a signed and personalized Diamond Rings Free Dimensional poster.
To enter the contest, fans are invited to tweet their favourite love-related Diamond Rings lyric (bonus points for a rhyming couplet!) @diamondrings with the hashtag #runawaylove. Winners will be choo-choo-chosen by John O himself, and posters will be post-marked on Valentine’s Day, set to arrive before the start of the Runaway Love tour.
Runaway Love Tour Dates
Friday, March 01, 2013 – Vancouver, BC @ The Commodore
Saturday, March 02, 2013 – Victoria, BC @ Sugar
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 – Calgary, AB @ The Commonwealth
Thursday, March 07, 2013 – Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room
Friday, March 08, 2013 – Saskatoon, SK @ Louis' Pub
Saturday, March 09, 2013 – Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid
Friday, March 22nd, 2013 – Toronto, ON @ Kool Haus *SiriusXM Indie Awards
Click here to buy tickets.
Going into this record was there any overarching thing that you specifically wanted to do differently from Special Affections?
Yeah, I knew that I wanted it to be a step up, sonically. I had this real epiphany moment when my creative director Lisa and I went to see Katy Perry in Toronto, at the hockey arena where she was playing last summer. And somehow “All Yr Songs,” one of my first tracks, made it onto the playlist that they were playing before her set. And that was really cool, on the one hand, hearing it in that context, this bedroom, lo-fi recording being played in this big hockey arena. But on the other hand it sort of showed how different what I was doing sounded from everything else that was from, let’s face it, what a large percentage of the population is really into. I think as a pop artist, or one that strives to be a pop artist, ultimately I want to connect with people, as many people as I can. So I knew that I wanted songs to kind of speak that more populist language, sonically. I didn’t really change my approach lyrically or emotionally. I feel like they’re still conveying the same message, but just coated in a way that has a few more layers of gloss. It’s like we spent a two more hours waxing the car.
That we have here an exercise in eclectic modern pop rather than pure synth recreationism is evidenced in the crunchy guitar lines of “Runaway Love” — or the unexpected rap interludes (which listeners will find divisive). This fuck-you assertiveness (even in the absence of the “fuck”) proclaims a defiance that chimes with the mainstream pop paradigm (if also nodding to O’s characteristic play across a range of gendered stereotypes). It’s a mood that replaces Special Affections’ dark-edged tint — and, as a further nod to pop’s now-characteristic biographical qualities, closer “Day and Night” is a customary narrative of the travails of touring.
C'était il y a six semaines, avant la sortie de son deuxième disque, Free Dimensional, survenue lundi dernier. À l'image du premier extrait, I'm Just Me, c'est un album plus pop que son prédécesseur qui regorge de confiance. Avec la voix grave de John O'Regan, les chansons dansantes se démarquent par une belle noirceur new-wave et par des textes de type «journal intime». «Cet album respire quelque chose de direct et de la confiance, explique-t-il. Je voulais avoir le son le plus fantastique qui soit. Depuis deux ans, je suis fasciné par la musique pop et je voulais un son plus poli.»
Diamond Rings has evolved past its '80s glam-pop melodies into a new era of electronic music that's still shimmering with boisterous pop, but introduces new dimensions into its already packed bag of tricks, including a rap verse or two. In many cases, that wouldn't work, but in O'Regan's anything-is-possible, self-esteem-touting universe, he can do whatever he wants and we will happily sing and dance along.
It would be somewhat dismissive and insulting to refer to the new album from Canadian synth hero Diamond Rings (a.k.a. John O'Regan) as merely retro. Sure, it is. It really is. Anyone who grew up in the '80s or has an affinity for the music of the time can't help but listen and hear that past, the dark wave, the cold wave, the new wave, the old wave. Can't help but hear Howard Jones, Clan of Xymox, Depeche Mode, Leisure Process, Sique Sique Sputnik, Dead Or Alive, etc. Can't help but be won over, seduced and satisfied. It's stylish. It's sexy. It's voluptuous. It's superb. And it's also incredibly of now. Right now. Today. It's the musical equivalent of watching Drive, something that's so obviously anchored in the past -- the fashion, the pastels, the bright lights -- but so entirely in the present. And something that transcends merely that nostalgic yearning for what came before. The delivery, the presentation: Excellent. The songs: Incredible and lasting and substantive. It's impossible not to want to return to tracks such as "Runaway Love," "I'm Just Me," "A to Z," "Stand My Ground" and, probably most notably, "Day & Night." It's impossible to hear Free Dimensional and be struck by all of it and, especially, that vision that wraps it up and brings it all together. In a retro, futuristic, contemporary kind of way.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
-- Mike Bell, Postmedia News
Diamond Rings’ highly anticipated sophomore album Free Dimensional is out today. Free Dimensional is available now on iTunes, across fine record stores across the country, and on CD and LP directly from us.
Today also marks the premiere of the brand new video for Runaway Love, directed by Sébastien Landry and Baz. The video was shot an hour outside Montreal back in September..
With striking visuals that match the synth-pop hooks of his music, one-man act Diamond Rings (aka, John O'Regan) - who echoes vintage Depeche Mode - is prepping the release of his second album, Free Dimensional (due Oct. 22). Diamond Rings' current single, "I'm Just Me," is percolating under the Dance Club Songs chart and is certain to be featured when his tour with Stars starts on Sept. 20. His solo tour launches on Oct. 14.
Arguably Canada’s most stylish pop dynamo, John O of Diamond Rings has the attitude of Grace Jones, the voice of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and the look of a My Little Pony. His Special Affections debut of 2010 became an unexpected hit, due in no small part to “All Yr Songs,” a bashful, sing-songy synth love note.
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