On first glance, it might be hard to take Toronto-based electro-pop musician Diamond Rings seriously. Festooned with glittering rainbow-hued eye shadow a la Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and outfitted in un-ironic post new wave ensembles, the first impression of this multi-instrumentalist’s overall aesthetic could easily feel like a premature electro-clash throwback.
That is until you hear the music.
Underneath the barrage of flash and pomp—and impossibly tight trousers— lies an astute and earnest songwriter who channels distinctly modern iterations of New Romantic electro-tinged balladry one moment then beat-laden introspective dirges that rival that of Brian Ferry’s world-weary decadence the next. With a point of view that’s both familiar and innovative, John O’Regan, the brainchild behind Diamond Rings, cleverly taps into a sonic realm that connects to the collective cultural unconscious while also playing into our own unique nostalgic sensibilities. The resulting sound is destined for playlists a’ plenty, thanks to catchy beats and double-take lyrics that you keep wanting to revisit.
On his infectious debut album Special Affections, John O’Regan’s throaty baritone vocals help to elevate a genre that can sometimes be too precious or too fey. Like a pleasing collision of thundering beats, slinky synth tones, and a touch of moody darkness, Special Affections takes the listener on an emotional journey that ebbs and flows like the musings of a mattress-stowed journal. With famous fans like pioneering riot grrl Kathleen Hanna, and an underground following that’s quickly growing, it’s only a matter of time before this glimmering up-and-comer garners mainstream fame.
Burlesque dancers getting down to the jazzy sound.
While getting my daily fix of the Today show the other day I watched a pretty silly segment entitled “Who’s Really Having Sex,” the purpose of which was to blast many misconceptions about sex and who’s actually doing the deed. While most couples have pretty regular hook up sessions, I am always very curious to see how things break down in everyone’s unique relationships and what factors thwart the libido and which ones make us h-o-t.
Unfortunately I don’t recall the segment in its entirety but there was one part that struck me as interesting, if not slightly ridiculous. I guess they took a survey of couples and asked them about their sexual activity, and what gets them off and turns them on. The question of interest was, “Which type of music do the people having the most sex listen to,” and the choices were between rock, rap, country, and jazz. I obviously opted for rock, as did my boyfriend. I waited for the answer and the gratifying glow of successfully guessing the right one—I mean we’re rock n’ rollers who like to fuck so how could it NOT be rock, right? Well, boy we’re we wrong. To our (and I bet most of America’s) surprise people who listen to JAZZ are the ones that are really getting down. That’s right: Jazz.
Although jazz music can be fun and sexy it’s kind of the last genre that I would associate getting down and dirty with. On the flipside, do we all remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie has a short-lived affair with a jazzbo with a terrible case of OCD? While it was a gratuitous and exaggerated portrayal it sure made improvisational music seem that much more scintillating. For me, sexuality and rock n’ roll are so closely intertwined. I have some great, steamy memories of heavy-petting sessions that were fueled by the visceral proto-punk of the Stooges, or long, drawn-out lovemaking that you wished would never end thanks to the cerebral noise of Brian Eno. Even hip-hop, with a pulsating beat, gritty lyrical content, and heavy bass-laden jams, would be a pretty perfect soundtrack for some kinky play—as long as there’s no mention of “bitches” or “hoes” of course.
Funnily enough, the name “jazz” was believed to originally derive from early 1900s popular slang for sex. Perhaps there’s something to this? I do have to say that some John Coltrane is very otherworldly and transcendent, and Miles Davis can be sentimental, tender, and also exciting and exhilarating. Maybe this means we should all give jazz another shot? Just a thought.
Make out music genius: Memory Tapes' Dayve Hawk
While Venus in Heels might be a relationship-centric blog, I think that there is a total intersect between music and love. I mean, c’mon! Most of the tunes that dominate the airwaves —or your headphones—are sonic tales of love, lust, loneliness, and desire. That said, I figured I’d use this opportunity to turn you on to one of my current favorite artists: Memory Tapes.
This dreamy project is the brainchild of reclusive New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist Dayve Hawk, who has a knack for creating nostalgic dreamscapes with languid beats, wistful guitar strums, and layered synth tones that are simultaneously beautiful and achingly melancholy. Since first hearing Hawk’s ethereal tracks late last year I haven’t been able to stop listening. Memory Tapes’ arresting debut Seek Magic consists of eight delicate yet dynamic tracks that bleed seamlessly into the next, making for a different kind of listening experience—one which can easily feel like a transcendent musical haze. rather than a typical headphone sesh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve idiotically missed my subway stop while being fully immersed in this album.
Memory Tapes is not only a great listen, but it’s even better make out music. There’s something inherently romantic in the drowsy keyboards and heartbeat-like percussion, and the lyrical content on songs like “Bicycle,” which recalls a tender yet naive coupling. If you’re searching for some new music to lock lips to, or just something to rock out to, why not try Memory Tapes on for size.