Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
After the success of last summer’s “All Yr Songs” video, one-man bedroom-popsmith Diamond Rings kept churning out singles, and it seemed to be a formula that worked—the full-length Special Affections came out at the end of September, and it was clear at the sold-out CD release show that the still-unfamiliar material was not only anticipated but quickly embraced and celebrated.
It’s a sentiment almost intrinsic to Diamond Rings’ music, and persona. You know the story by now—he was, of course, first recognizable in Canadian music as John O’Regan, the frontman/guitarist for the D’Urbervilles (though this new project has probably eclipsed their reach), and over the course of his singles as a solo singer/songwriter, he glammed up and stripped back his inhibitions, revealing a slightly awkward but totally confident electro-pop personality—and an obviously compelling one at that.
Though his colourfulness is playful, it’s never cartoonish, even on the plinkiest keyboard-pop of tracks like “You & Me.” The familiar, gloomy Ian Curtis baritone of his is most present, though it lifts to croon alongside the Magic/Evening Hymns vocalist Sylvie Smith on the swirling ’80s euro beauty of “On Our Own,” and on most recent single “Something Else” (streaming above), he’s reaching for the top of his range, lending a modern, even impassioned indie-rock edge to the simplistic delicacy of the overall sound. It’s not just his voice, either—O’Regan still sounds best and most urgent when working primarily with a guitar (such as on that track and previously released singles “Wait and See” and, of course, “All Yr Songs”), though to say that he should stick to either strings or synths would be shortsighted, because then there would be no sweet slow jam like “It’s Not My Party.”
Diamond Rings is a novelty, for sure, at least initially. But the style and substance are there, too, and Special Affections is an infectious, personal, pretty accessible pop album, and sometimes, more than enough.