After only two albums, Diamond Rings (John O’Regan) has carved out a distinctive sound: melodic, catchy as all hell, emotive throwback ’80s electro-pop. And O’Regan owns it with his follow-up to 2010’s breakthrough, Special Affections.
Having recently dropped Free Dimensional, his latest effort away from the homestead with the still-active D’Urbervilles, the gauzy synths, earworm guitar riffs, and that unmistakable angular baritone and oft-used handclaps are back. Releasing almost two years to the day after his debut album, which attracted a flurry of positive reviews and fanfare, O’Regan’s (or as he calls himself, John O’s) sophomore disc carries the flame. The question is how much brighter does that flame burn?
Enlisting the support of co-producer Damian Taylor (Robyn, Austra, Björk), Free Dimensional is an easy upgrade from the out-of-nowhere freshness that is Special Affections. Not a departure, that’s for sure. It’s best described as a sort of honing, a polish on previously laid groundwork.
This time around, O’Regan goes deeper into the personal anthems exploring self-identity (“I’m Just Me”), questionable love (“All The Time”), shameless and cheesy love-pop ditties (“Day & Night”) and some additional personal anthems about self-identity (“I Know What I’m Made Of” and “Stand My Ground”). That said, he’s still yet to take the next step and explore compositions with greater depth. O’Regan clearly found comfort in his addictive and accessible take on electro-pop and “this is me” songwriting.
That’s not necessarily a huge problem. But even though there’s a hip-hop presence on a track like “I Know What I’m Made Of” and the production value in general is definitely sharper and cleaner, the overall package leaves the listener pining for more when it’s all said and done — more experimentation, more depth, evidence of artistic progression. Just more.