Electrospective: Like Diamond Rings’ “Free Dimensional?” Then you’ll love Pet Shop Boys

Elektro joins EMI in celebrating its Electrospective series, which pays homage to electronic music’s long, storied history. We’re continuing our guided tour through EMI’s extensive, 600-plus album catalog; our tailor-picked recommendations are sure to open your eyes to artists and tracks that inspired the stars of today’s scene. This week, however, we’re switching it up: Rather than recommending a specific album from EMI’s catalog, we believe Pet Shop Boys’ discography as a whole merits mention; the group’s distinct sound both inspires and finds new life on Diamond Rings’ buzzy new album Free Dimensional.

Diamond Rings (real name: John O’Regan) crafts catchy synth-pop with a clever retro edge, and his just-released sophomore LP shows his love of the electronic artists who paved his way. He relies heavily on New Wave-type song structures – perfectly placed hand claps, simple synth melodies – on his defiant first single, “I’m Just Me,” as well as on album cut “Stand My Ground.” His voice is reminiscent of Calvin Harris’, deep and smooth, with just the right amount of range; he soars highest on “A to Z,” one of Free Dimensional‘s best tracks.

Free Dimensional has been garnering praise from critics and dance fans alike (it was marked as an iTunes “Editors’ Choice” upon its release last month) but, to truly appreciate it, listeners have to go back to its roots. And those roots lie at least partially with British duo the Pet Shop Boys. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been making music together for over thirty years, ever since meeting by chance at an electronics store in 1981. The group’s best-known track is most likely “West End Girls,” but its sultry vibe replaces the synth-powered energy of the best Pet Shop Boys tracks. “Always On My Mind” is 80s dance music at its best, with its emotional (and relatable) lyrics, synthesized strings and quick, driving beat. There are countless Pet Shop Boys songs we could recomment, but “Heart” and “It’s Alright” have not only stood the test of time as dance classics in their own right; their double-time synths and lovesick melodies would make the tracks fit right in on Three Dimensional. For a well-curated sampling of Pet Shop Boys’ work, check out their 1998 compilation Essential.

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