Diamond Rings: Free Dimensional (Astralwerks) 

When Toronto musician John O'Regan transformed himself from punk-band frontman to glam-rock diva on 2010's Special Affections, the results were a wonderful and skeletal album of electro-glam. Though the Diamond Rings persona seemed a far cry from O'Regan's previous incarnation in the D'Urbervilles, Special Affections still played like an indie record, a bit too spare and moody to work as a real pop album. Free Dimensional, Rings' sophomore effort, commits totally to pop diva-dom. It's Britney Spears by way of Stephin Merritt.

While Diamond Rings' vocal delivery and pop songcraft on Free Dimensional is much more Merritt-esque, he doesn't have Merritt's verbal acumen or biting wit. If Merritt is the child from an Edward Gorey illustration come to life, Diamond Rings is someone from Jem and the Holograms. Songs like "A to Z" are unapologetically upbeat and full of pop fervor, and wouldn't sound out of place between songs by Ellie Goulding and Robyn in the dance club.

"Stand My Ground," one of the best songs, feels like a lost Magnetic Fields track produced by Stargate. If that doesn't sound delightful, then Free Dimensional may well be lost on you, because the album dishes up song after song that fits exactly that description: "All the Time," "Hand Over My Heart" and so on. The album's other mode is turbo-charged T. Rex-style garage glam on tracks like "Runaway Love" and "Put Me On." It's got more joie de vivre than Special Affections, and is a perfect celebration record for the current moment.

More by Sean Bottai


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