When it first appeared at the start of the decade, the label PC Music—with its elastic, brightly-colored, and sweet as taffy aesthetic—seemed like a gleeful exaggeration of pop music. As the 2010s come to a close, what stands out now are the nuances in that aesthetic. The label’s genius hinges upon the tension between PC Music’s euphoric production and surreal, plasticky artist photos and the way its artists wield a hyperreal lens to capture deeply human feelings. In this sense, photographer and singer Hannah Diamond embodies the soul behind PC Music’s digital sheen. Diamond put the label on the map with her giddy 2013 debut single “Pink & Blue,” and with her long-awaited debut album Reflections, she lays PC Music’s beating heart bare with one of the label’s strongest releases ever.
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
Long before she had an interest in singing, Diamond says she was, “Making things all the time. Mostly, I was drawing. I thought I was going to be an illustrator. I used to do a lot of hyperreal graphic pencil illustrations and that feels really similar to [photo] retouch—which became this really natural progression.” Diamond’s hyperreal photos, both of herself as well as other PC Music artists, define the label’s aesthetic as much as any of its releases. For Diamond, the two pieces—music and image—go hand in hand.
“It really helps me to write songs if I can visualize a world around it,” she says, “if I can picture what the artwork will be. It helps me find the words to bring it together—and vice versa: sometimes, the words help me bring together the visual world.” PC Music’s world functions in much the same way.
That commitment to both audio and visual may be part of why Diamond’s debut album Reflections, took a long time to come together. At any given moment, Diamond is performing multiple roles at once. “Sometimes I end up having three jobs, because I’m doing the music and working on my visuals,” she says. “But sometimes I’m also doing visuals for another artist, or I’m working on an editorial or fashion campaign. So I’m always balancing things.” That workload may have prolonged the arrival of Reflections, but it also gave Diamond a skill set that translated to all aspects of her career.
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
“The thing I learned really quickly being a photographer—and specifically being a freelance photographer—was how to become a businesswoman,” she says. “I’ve had to basically run my own business for the last six or seven years, which was a huge learning curve.” But Diamond’s ability to effortlessly juggle dozens of things at once pays off in moments like Reflection’s lead single “Invisible.” The stunning music video that accompanies the song is like one of Diamond’s album covers come to life. In addition to being the star and co-director (with Daniel Swan), Diamond also produced the video, and managed the call sheet, equipment list, load-in and more. The song, adapted from the 16th century Christmas classic “Greensleeves,” is an unexpectedly perfect compliment to PC Music’s nearly baroque complexity. Lyrically, it’s one of the strongest examples of Diamond’s ability to pair vulnerable, heartbroken verses with the euphoric surge of trance music. It’s a fascination that stretches back to her childhood love of the genre.
“I guess all teenagers go through a kind of emo phase,” she says. “But I think trance is kind of emo as well. It’s all highly emotional and quite euphoric, and there’s really quite a lot of sad trance music. I feel like it was a combination of the fact that trance can convey a lot of emotion, as well as total euphoria, that drew me to it.” It’s a fascinating contrast that Diamond has honed throughout her career, culminating in Reflection’s simultaneously somber and ecstatic trance ballads. There’s a sense of a weight lifting and as her confidence grows—her vision scaling right along with it. (Which you can hear even in the instrumental versions of the songs, which are exclusive to Bandcamp.)
“I feel like there’s so much further I can push things,” she says. “I want to make party music and stuff you can dance to. It was really important to me that this album was true to my feelings and genuine to me. It didn’t feel right yet making music I’d want to party to,” she says, before adding: “That’s the next project.”