Synth-pop group DIANA’s ‘Perpetual Surrender’ was a remarkable and successful debut. Online buzz induced the band to tour despite being originally intended as a recording project, and three years later, they’ve released their new album ‘Familiar Touch’. Heartwarmingly atmospheric, the aptly-titled sophomore album sees the band on perhaps overly familiar territory, and though it’s sometimes interesting, it’s mostly forgettable.
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The opening track ‘Confession’, like most of the album, has a solid groove, funky bass line, and Depeche Mode-esque percussion, but the chorus is lazily written. The single ‘What You Get’ builds up strongly, but as Carmen Elle sings “That’s what you get for being in love” , what seems to be a promising pre-chorus turns out to be a disappointing chorus. The same kind of potential is similarly lost on the track ‘Miharu’. There are exceptions, however; ‘Slipping Away’ is musically addictive and imaginative, while the vocals, both main and backing, are memorable and enchanting. The better of the chillwave-flavored tracks, ‘Cry’ is beautifully sublime, while it incorporates blissful saxophone melodies that enhance the groove. It relies on being soothing and endearing, which is indeed the strongest asset of the album.
But this aspect is also evoked through the lyrics, which are both confessional and deeply personal. They may not be complex, but they feel real and heartfelt, unlike on most pop songs. A prime example is the atmospheric, grooveless ‘The Coward’ which is as affecting as it gets, as Elle sings, painfully, “Love don’t go”, or the track ‘Moment of Truth’, where before a dull chorus she sings: “I’m shaking, waiting for your mouth to move”. Though not as much as on their previous record, the lyrics are quite devastating.
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The track ‘Miharu’ asks, in its spoken word introduction: “How is the way home always familiar?” With the fuzz and lo-fi production of the music gone, what’s left of its impact is a home-like warmth. Unfortunately, though, it’s not a place you’re likely to remember when you seek comfort.