Same Sound, New Feelings
Brooklyn-based DIIV has not released an album since 2012, when the debut full-length disc Oshin was dropped. The group was initially started under the name Dive, a solo project of Zachary Cole Smith, previous touring guitarist of Beach Fossils and Darwin Deez. The four-year hiatus has not really seemed to alter much in the area of sound, with 17-track Is the Is Are still offering a spacey, indie rock vibe with an underlying surfy current. The difference might be an inescapable gloom that begins subtly and consumes the listener as the album continues.
“Out of Mind” starts off the disc with some drumstick intro clinks and an undeniable surf rock flow. The vocals enter like an uneasy feeling on a summer day. While the instruments boast a seamless fluidity, the vocals appear a little more haunted as they float over. But the overall vibes brush off any eerie postulations. Out of sight, out of mind! “Under the Sun” continues in much the same manner with even more instrumental space and an overall more upbeat tune. Everything under the sun! At this point in the disc, I had decided that the track titles were all cliches. But, alas, things got more personal and a little funkier pretty quickly, most notably in the guitar lines driven by the moving bass.
“Bent (Roi’s Song)” lets the vocals get a little lost to the static, a fading sentiment amongst a fading sound. “Dopamine” then enters easy and sedated, building a little and bringing in a stronger vocal tone. “Blue Boredom” is a standout track that features Sky Ferreira, who is expected to drop a more aggressive disc this year, which she started working on back in 2014, the same year she was an opening act for the Bangerz Tour. Her synthpop leanings are subdued by DIIV’s psychedelic fuzz sound on this track, forming into an angry yet seductive vocal line.
“Valentine” comes in just in time to celebrate a certain holiday, but the sound is far from your happy love song. The track has a slightly more upbeat and catchy rhythm than the previous tunes, but it still definitively falls under the mellow umbrella. “Yr Not Far” enters with a deeper rock guitar line and develops into a dark chorus, and “Take Your Time” gives that same edge with its undercurrent of sarcasm. Then enters the title track, “Is the Is Are” like a honey-glazed trip.
“(Fuck)” is a grim 17-second interlude to follow up “Incarnate Devil,” and following track “Haunted Moon” is one of my favorites on the disc with layers of pretty guitar melodies flying dreamily over an innate darker sentiment. The blend of light and dark is immaculate. “Loose Ends” arrives airily with soaring textures that imitate a breaking free of sorts. “(Napa)” includes repetitive vocals that are subtly demonic, only bolstered by the threatening guitar and drum sounds rising underneath.
“Dust” sucks the listener back into this tumultuous audio space before “Waste of Breath” ends the disc with something ominous but sullen. The sadness ultimately takes over, enticing the listener’s sympathy and turning over an empty soul. The echo: it’s meaningless.