PC Music, the pioneering label of which Hannah Diamond is a founding member, has always embodied the nightmarish realisation of promises made to a generation raised on the idea that “forever” was an option. This generation witnessed the advent of the internet and social media in our childhood homes and heard pop songs that echoed the euphoria of the 90s’ ecstasy boom. Yet, our own ecstasy boom never materialised, our musical epiphanies mediated through pre-roll ads on YouTube and weaponised by a culture that exists only abstractly.
Diamond’s music, more so than anyone on the PC Music roster, is pinned to the notion of “forever”, forging yearning for the unattainable or intangible into bubblegum-flecked pop anthems. In the narrow confines of pop, duration becomes a conceptual space where the personal is continuously performed until the end; pop music demands an investment in each fleeting moment and is a big part of why Diamond and co.’s retro-futurist experiments are so intriguing.
‘Perfect Picture’, Diamond’s second studio LP, still evokes the half-remembered sound of worn-out Spice Girls cassettes, coated in the same plastic gloss as the posters adorning bedroom walls, but navigates a more complex interplay between the different brands of nostalgia within a typically kaleidoscopic soundscape. In the title track, Hannah Diamond sings: “Sometimes it’s hard / To live up to the perfect lie / I’m permanently frozen in time…” Her fragile voice tiptoes over sparse, twinkling production, an infantilising desire for authenticity in an era dominated by synthetic perfection, blurring the lines between the plastic and the genuine, the commercial and the kitsch. Diamond was always able to inject warmth and humanity into the hyper-glossy production of PC Music’s output, infusing it with a dewy indie sensibility and an emotional depth reminiscent of trance music’s frontal lobe contusions in euphoric yet melancholic highs.
Producer David Gamson playfully deconstructs the conventions of pop and electronic over the course of the album and adds new dimensions to Diamond’s sweetly naïve Y2K charm, incorporating those elements into a scattering of chiptune, Kiss FM pop anthems, K-Pop, and discordant electro. ‘Perfect Picture’ lives in the space that these dichotomies create between them; since their initial releases, Hannah Diamond and PC Music defied traditional genre limitations in auditory iconoclasm, embracing a silhouette of music that broke the boundaries between electronic and acoustic.
Standout tracks like ‘Want You To Know’ and ‘Lip-Sync’ play like echoes of the climax to The Lizzie MgGuire Movie, playing with that blurred line between reality and performance. It’s a more grounded and less airbrushed exploration of identity than we might be used to from Hannah Diamond, but one that counteracts an era increasingly obsessed with the perfect image and the false promise of forever.
Words: Bryson Edward Howe