In a scene noted for being under the mainstream alternative radar, Diamond Youth has shown itself to be surprising sleepers. A quartet built of members from Baltimore, Chicago, and Richmond, the group has only managed to release a number of short EPs filled with their 90’s vibes and fueled alternative rock. Decidedly more accessible than some of the work of their Topshelf Records label mates, the group remains merely a small force within the current pop punk/emo framework. After years of using their high quality EPs to attract fans within the scene, the band’s debut full-length, Nothing Matters, spells itself as another step in the band’s progress. While it is a short release, this album facilitates the evolution of a band that has built great potential behind them.
Before you write them off for being another twinkly emo/generic pop punk band, Diamond Youth’s sound is in many ways, more oriented towards mainstream alternative tastes. While inspired by 90’s emo and “skateboarding”, there are definite shades of Weezer and Third Eye Blind. These aren’t at all perfect parallels, but the sound is geared towards alternative radio and middle-aged adults. There’s a lot more in the way of dense percussive patterns and guitar synchronicity. There is a lot of energy and punk mentality throughout, but the sound isn’t at all driven by lo-fi production, gruff vocals, or overly-aggressive instrumentals. Instead, core foundations of alternative rock, from slight guitar distortion to structurally polished songs, show themselves as the primary pieces of Diamond Youth.
Make no mistake, this record will fly fast. While it may be a debut full-length, at about half-hour long, it is a mere ten minutes longer than the band’s 2013 EP, Orange. Some shortcomings of full-length records, like filler songs or creative homogeneity, aren’t really issues on Nothing Matters. “In the Clouds” may tailor itself as a harder and faster take from the pack, but “Thought I Had It Right” is sunny, harmony ridden, and smooth in its execution and feel, and neither feels out of place or forced.
In fact, the full-length mentality has given the band chances to make darker and more emotive songs. “No Control” finds lead singer digging deep in his register, with hints of softer quips to balance out the overall volume and size behind the track. We find the band playing with the power of guitar isolation and distortion in a new way, that of building and swelling energy. The rise and fall of an album has given the band a unique opportunity to slow down and unleash in a way that short EPs have not. There’s nothing radically different from what you may expect from a 90’s influenced alternative record, but the confluence of influences that get involved here make for a sound that synthesizes the trappings of alternative rock into a solid, tight package.
While the execution is definitely there, and there is evidence of experimentation, Diamond Youth is still just a band making music. Yes the execution is there, and there isn’t wrong with anything we find on Nothing Matters, but after a few listens, there is a bugging for more. It’s good as can be, but the resilience and longevity found on their EPs is a little lacking, potentially because of the wildly consistent nature of the record, with no song necessarily standing out from the pack. They all feel different, but no song shows itself as a stand out or centerpiece.
What makes Diamond Youth special is the fact that they may be under the radar now, but their appeal is very widespread. Their alternative rock vibes have the power to take over college and modern rock radio alike, and the band has managed to share the stage with big names like Jimmy Eat World and Cage the Elephant. While Nothing Matters certainly proves itself strong enough to spell new opportunities for this underrated group of musicians, it’ll take more than this to break through the tough walls of the alternative rock scene. They have pushed in ways, but this band has the power to take over airwaves and record shops on ear appeal alone. So while Nothing Matters is a good foundation for further full-lengths, this band’s potential is a well that can be tapped much deeper. That being said, it is worth the listen, because the potential well is so deep, that it can barely hide itself here, and that is clear from start to finish.