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Familiar Touch

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Album Review

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. Their sound was already well defined on their first album, so the second one isn't too much of a departure, but it's certainly more fleshed out this time around. Familiar Touch is longer than the group's debut, and while the first half of the album is brimming with potential singles, the back half is a bit calmer and more ambient. There isn't quite as much smooth saxophone on this album as there was on Perpetual Surrender. There are songs where the drums show up later, or they don't run through the entire song, ramping up the intensity when they do surface. "Miharu" begins with a spoken word passage quoting Gregg Bordowitz's book Volition before launching into an upbeat tune revolving around the phrase "death by desire." It's one of three songs on the album to feature Gary Beals, whose soulful vocals immediately stand out whenever they're present. As with DIANA's first album, the songs that have the biggest impact are the ones where the lyrical hooks are at their most confessional. It's tough to top "I thought we were never gonna lose that feeling" from the debut, but singer Carmen Elle still delivers a few devastating blows here. On "What You Get," she says "Cry out for what you think is fair, no one will ever hear you" before taunting "That's what you get for being in love." On "Moment of Silence," she pleads "Talk to me, tell me what you're saying when you don't say anything, is it what I think?" At the end of the album, she describes feeling like "A ghost in between the windows and the walls." With Familiar Touch, DIANA continue to excel at writing songs that are soothing yet scarring.

Customer Reviews


Amazing. Also check out their first album Perpetual Surrender.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Toronto's breezy synth-pop outfit DIANA began as a collaboration between drummer Kieran Adams and saxophonist Joseph Shabason, fixtures of the city's music scene who met while studying jazz at the University of Toronto (later, they played with acts including Warm Myth and Destroyer, respectively). Having written an album's worth of demos during a working holiday in the Canadian countryside, the pair recruited singer Carmen Elle, formerly of Spiral Beach and Army Girls, to lend some sweeter vocals...
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Familiar Touch, DIANA
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