Fire Note Says: DIIV come back with a more focused sound.
Album Review: Sophomore albums are never easy and especially hard when your debut was critically hailed across the land like DIIV’s debut Oshin (2012). One way to attack the possible failure is to confront it with a double record that runs over an hour and goes down many paths. This approach initially will meet people in the middle but still has the potential to implode if there is too much going on which loses the listener. I will tell you that DIIV’s new record, Is The Is Are, will not lose you in the mix but also does not reach the same grandeur as Oshin.
As a band that stormed the indie scene in 2012, there was a very high expectation placed on Is The Is Are, which will set you up to fail because the record, much like their debut, feels like a giant surge of progressive new wave that just crashes all around you – but now there is even more of it. With the quantity, it takes much longer to get into this round but built within Is The Is Are there are hooks, riffs and effects that are even more catchy. The intense pulsing electro riff in “Valentine” will keep your foot tapping as the soft lyrics file in nicely while the bouncy “Dopamine” is one of the most direct songs the band has ever written. The dark “Blue Boredom” features Sky Ferreira and takes on a very Sonic Youth type of vibe as it slides along keeping Ferreira’s vocals slightly in the back.
There are lots of ups and downs throughout Is The Is Are and its middle finds some bloat with tracks that either push the five-minute mark or surpass it. It is not to say the music isn’t interesting but if DIIV is not careful, some of songs can run together and please don’t ask me to identify them by title yet – I wouldn’t be able to do it! With that said, there are still great moments such as the somewhat hidden screams that hoover in the background of “Mire (Grant’s Song).”
Is The Is Are is a solid sophomore record from Zachary Cole Smith and I can only forecast that the group will continue to grow. The bar was high from Oshin so chipping away too much from this offering is probably unfair. It wouldn’t be if the music was just “meh” but rather the propulsive Is The Is Are gains traction after multiple spins and honestly I can see me picking this record back up and listening again later this year with no second thoughts. DIIV is one of those bands that still sticks out today and it is way too early to compare them to the Cure but I think their music has the same sort of reception from the masses in present day. As DIIV continues to progress, their name might just be remembered and it will all lead back to these early records.
Key Tracks: “Out Of Mind” / “Dopamine” / “Loose Ends”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Cure / Tame Impala / Real Estate
– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony
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