ALBUM REVIEW: Diamond Rings - Special Affections

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SECRET CITY | 11.09.10 | EMUSIC | AMAZON | INSOUND | ITUNES

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82 — [Rating Scale] [Stream Entire Album]

From the alias to the sound to the makeup, Diamond Rings is over the top. His music is glossy, colorful and powerful, and his twitter name is @stayfierce. His debut album, Special Affections, is a true pop record unlike any other being released today. Built on inherently catchy and textured synths, with guitars and pianos making occasional appearances over sparse, clearly DIY hip-hop beats, it is uniquely accessible and immediate while maintaining a strong sense of emotional viability.

From the above description of the sound of Diamond Rings, the voice of the John O’Regan might be a surprise. He sings in a deep, commanding baritone, a stark contrast from the vivid synths that create its backdrop. However, that baritone proves to be the anchor of each song and the entire album, never changing or boring. It keeps the often larger than life instrumentals tied down to the subject matter, which happens to be largely heartache and heartbreak.

The best song on the album, “You & Me” is a good example of how stunningly catchy and airy Diamond Rings’ instrumentals can be. The opening piano rollicks into the track to start it off and things just get better from there. The synths, more subtle and understated than usual, pick things up until the bridge, where they really become the focal part of the track, apart from the rapping. The bridges on Special Affections are often one of the most entertaining elements to the album, as they give O’Regan a chance to show off his impressive quickfire lyrical abilities. Although the results are never quite as stunning as on his previous EP release Show Me Your Stuff, where dude proved he could straight up spit, occasionally he lets loose here to great effect. However, ultimately the greatest draw on this track, as well as every song on the album, is the chorus.

The verses of Diamond Rings are not to be scoffed at; they are, for the most part, filled with witty metaphors and bon mots and delivered with panache. The hooks, though, are where O’Regan’s strength as Diamond Rings becomes apparent. After getting used to the album they are what you wait for in every song. I’ve gone through about 30 listens of the album and they are what prevent me skipping any of the 10 tracks.

Diamond Rings is a bold project. He crafts songs that are almost untouchable in terms of easily digestible entertainment and pairs them up with earnest, personal songwriting. The surging desperation in the phrase “if you believe I’m worth saving” leading into the chorus of “Give It Up” is something you won’t find in your average pop song. Diamond Rings has stumbled upon a formula for making effortlessly effervescent and legitimately touching music, while keeping it so accessible my little sister will like it.

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