Surrender, militarily speaking, typically involves the culmination of antagonism, bloodshed, and some form of realized defeat. Surrender is bad enough once, but what about “perpetual” surrender? Yeah, that’s probably awful.
“I need saving from myself,” aches Carmen Elle on “Perpetual Surrender”, the jazzy, love-pop title track to Toronto outfit DIANA’s debut album. Throughout, songwriters Joseph Shabason and Kieran Adams create unique beat and synth driven pop songs, all tinged with themes of love, longing, and renouncement. Although it’s not warfare that DIANA literally expresses, Elle croons in such a forlorn way that “love surrender” sounds just as brutally painful as military surrender.
Album cut “Born Again” gained some popularity when it hit the web last year. While the track seemingly promised an album filled with similarly beautiful pop songs, the record resulted in a rather unexpected collection of sluggish tracks and love ballads. At first glance, the less danceable tracks surrounding “Born Again” fail to match its upbeat caliber. However, after repeat listens, Perpetual Surrender’s softer side turns out to be its strongest.
Opening track “Foreign Instillation” blurs the line between purely danceable and purely singable. It features two distinct, vocally driven sections: the drum-heavy, movement-friendly “even when I want to be alone” and the drum-weak crooning of “I’m out of control more than I know.” Following track “That Feeling” showcases the album’s best chorus: “We were blind to all the ways/ we sat and watched it fade away/ so let it be/ let it go.” It’s ironic, though, to see the immediacy of “letting go” contrasted with the continuous effort of “perpetual surrender.” A prime example of this confused depth is “Anna”, which, with its clashing synths, booming drumbeats, and spooky atmospherics, makes for the record’s most aberrant, dark, and psychedelic track.
“Am I wasting my love on you?” asks Elle on ”New House”, nearing the end of Perpetual Surrender. ”It’s all I need to know.” The answer is the album’s closing track, “Curtains”, almost five minutes of voiceless, blissful ambience. For DIANA, there is no vocal answer, no painless solution for something like perpetual surrender, especially when tinged with heartache and a pining for reciprocated love.
Essential Tracks: “Foreign Installation”, “That Feeling”, and “Born Again”