Words by Russell Carstens
So much has been written about DIIV since the 2012 release of their debut album Oshin — but little has been about music — instead focusing on Zachary Cole Smith’s personal issues and related topics. So this review will focus solely on Is The Is Are: the long-awaited follow-up to Oshin.
“Out of Mind” opens the album on a sunny and optimistic note, as Smith sings in an innocent voice that doesn’t necessarily belong to someone with his life experience. The middle section features guitar interplay inspired by the more melodic guitar intertwinings of Sonic Youth. Likewise, the vibes on “Under The Sun” match the album’s child-like and playful cover art.
However, by track three, “Bent (Roi’s song)” the album’s direction is already getting tiresome. It is in need of distortion, texture or a new approach rather than relying on delay and reverb to create an atmosphere. One saving grace is Sky Ferreira’s guest vocals on “Blue Boredom (Sky’s Song),” reminiscent of Kim Gordon’s style – whispery, haunting and suggestive. The title track boasts a solid vocal melody, refreshingly pushed to the front of the mix.
Unfortunately, halfway through Is The Is Are, listening becomes a chore. The core of all DIIV songs serve as great launching pads/foundations, but it’s as if they began with a worthwhile idea and didn’t develop it to its full potential. There are a lot of quality bands to contend with if one wants to be acknowledged, so DIIV is going to have to work harder to earn their place. They have the potential, but it’s lacking something special.
I had high hopes for this, but like Oshin, (personally) the music is not living up to the hype. I’m interested to see how Smith and Co. push their bag of tricks to the next level in the future.
‘Is The Is Are’
© February 5th, 2016
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