RECORD REVIEW: DIIV – IS THE IS ARE

RECORD REVIEW: DIIV – IS THE IS ARE

Habits are hard to break. Just ask Zachary Cole Smith, the mainstay behind New York City outfit DIIV, he’s had a few. His relationship with addiction is well documented but its his formed habits around the DIIV approach and sound that are of far more interest here. While Smith talked about the new DIIV record, Is The Is Are, in terms of breaking new ground compared to first album Oshin, truth be told it doesn’t. Indeed, it doesn’t even go close apart from the subject matter and improved production. That is of no matter however because if your on a winner you’d best stick to it. And their excellent 2012 debut was certainly that. Familiarity doesn’t always have to breed contempt. What Smith and co. have produced on their second record though is a definitely a step up in scope and ambition. Tellingly however, the key to this album’s success is not necessarily the step up in scope in itself but how that scope and ambition, have been managed.

At seventeen tracks and 64 minutes, Is The Is Are could have easily been an overblown bore, an over ambitious self indulgent mess. Indeed, as I prepared to spin it for the first time dread abounded given the economy of Oshin. But as I soon discovered, the record in its totality is arguably the most cohesive, disciplined piece of pop/rock of its length in many a year. DIIV’s sound is ultra-distinctive, even if some of the ideas are more than borrowed, and that’s what makes Is The Is Are such a thrilling ride. Concise reverb drenched hooks everywhere, emotive and effecting riffs, power filled bass lines and deep sounding drums sit perfectly alongside Cole’s appropriately wistful vocals.

What is true about the pre-album self-commentary is Cole’s undertaking to attempt to keep guitar based music relevant in a musically manipulative age. And with DIIV’s predilection for combining themes of sadness and regret with tension filled yet often glittering chord changes and tellingly glistening melodies, it’s hard to see it as irrelevant. The key here is to ask yourself the question, will this be a go-to record in the years to come? The answer for me lays in three and a half year since Oshin, it is an album I’ve gone back to with relish time and time again. I’ve got the feeling that Is The Is Are will perform the same function, deepening the DIIV experience.

That Cole never wallows in his personal demons and keeps the vocal elements opaque and cryptic, not only in a lyrical but delivery sense allows the album to connect on a variety of levels, and those are in the ear of the beholder. Whether Cole’s story is one you want to delve into with interest is squarely up to you. He invites you in but doesn’t keep you against your will. The hazy vocal space thankfully allows for this. That’s what independent artists do so well. They don’t chase you and they’d even be prepared to let you go right on past if you so wish. That said, if you love your guitar pop hook and melody filled, you’ll go past this album at your sonic peril. With Is The Is Are, it’s the connection of the morose with the ornate that fascinates and rarely has the documentation of a downward spiral felt so exhilarating.

James Stocker, February 12, 2016

 

Is The Is Are

DIIV (USA)
From the album, ‘Is The Is Are’, Captured Tracks.

DIIV Facebook

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Under The Sun

DIIV (USA)
From the album, ‘Is The Is Are’, Captured Tracks.

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Mire (Grant’s Song)

DIIV (USA)
From the album, ‘Is The Is Are’, Captured Tracks.

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Dopamine

DIIV (USA)
From the album, ‘Is The Is Are’, Captured Tracks.

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