Release Date: Nov 18, 2016
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
DIANA fully realize an atmospheric, '80s-indebted sonic world on Familiar Touch, their followup to 2013's breakthrough success, Perpetual Surrender. Lyrically, Familiar Touch is a dark passage through relationships; feelings of torment and confessional phrases abound. Taut, funk-inflected pop in line with that of Blood Orange characterizes this record, as heard on spellbinding single "Slipping Away," where vocalist and guitarist Carmen Elle sings, "Here comes the light searching for me, drowning out the darkness that I live inside" — a juxtaposition that captures how this album is thematically structured.
Put the needle down to spin DIANA’s long-awaited second album and you’ll instantly be met with a percussive clatter that mirrors the bombast of Depeche Mode’s ‘People Are People.’ That’s probably not too surprising, though. Lurking underneath some chillwave ambience, there was a distinctively 80s and early 90s vibe to their debut album ‘Perpetual Surrender.’ But occasionally on that record, singer Carmen Elle’s vocals were pushed incredibly far into the mix, hidden by a thick layer of mist obscuring the fact that, at heart, DIANA are a pure pop band. So when opening rattle of ‘Confession’ gives way to funk-laden guitars, classic piano power chords and swirling synths, you know they’ve focused on their best assets.
Familiar Touch, the sophomore album from Toronto band DIANA, sounds familiar. Its shadowy '80s inspired synth-pop style, which wavers between energetic and sullen, is in-line with the throwback sound that has submerged contemporary pop music. The thick slap bass notes of "Moment of Silence," the danceable groove of "Slipping Away," and the sparkling keys of "Miharu" are poised to be blasted through the speakers of a DeLorean or to become part of the soundtrack to your own San Junipero adventure.
Three years after Toronto-based synth-pop group DIANA dropped their excellent debut album Perpetual Surrender, they returned (minus one member, and on a new label) with Familiar Touch. The album is appropriately named, as the group immediately pick up where they left off -- namely, writing pristine pop songs with bright synths, big, busy '80s drums, gentle guitars, and sentimental, yearning lyrics. They were essentially a studio project when their first album was being written and recorded, but the online buzz generated by their first singles pushed them to form a proper band and tour.
Fairly or otherwise, the 80s are a musical era long defined by irony and inauthenticity, a triumph of alloy over purity. Canadian trio Diana’s first album, Perpetual Surrender, had fun playing with these tired themes, taking an intriguing if unexceptional gauzy approach to synth-pop: the sound of Phil Collins flying between Live Aids, as heard from the baggage hold. This follow-up is a huge disappointment, a criminally boring collection of overlong stadium pop homilies.