DIIV‘s newest album Is the Is Are is a 17-track behemoth, but it’s not a chore to get through. We begin easily enough, with “Out of Mind” providing an up-tempo introduction and “Under the Sun” showing off what the band is truly capable of, catchy hooks and all. The fifth track “Blue Boredom” features Sky Ferreira, longtime girlfriend of lead singer Zachary Cole Smith, and her murmured vocals contrast with his beautifully. Each song flows into the next effortlessly, but because of this, the album begins to sound repetitive – the only one that truly stands out is the title track. In any event, DIIV have certainly honed their sound and know what they’re doing. The vibe is laid-back and beachy without being sluggish, and it’ll certainly appeal to the fan base they’ve been building since 2012. They’re certainly a rock band, and perhaps even an indie one at that, and thankfully that label is fluid enough for them to set their own terms and define their own limits. DIIV listeners no doubt appreciate the band’s uniqueness, and this record only proves that a little bit of bad press isn’t enough to stop their drive.
Zachary Cole Smith does tend to slur his lyrics, making them difficult to decipher, but listen closely and lines such as “I forced myself to be quiet just to be quick / Lead a slow death right like an innocent fight / Left me choked and white in a patch of light” (“Dust”) betray the album’s shimmery, sunny vibe. Smith has pointed out that a song like “Dopamine” describes a manic state, and isn’t exactly the chilled-out tune you might think it is upon one or two listens. DIIV are never what they appear to be, and dedicated fans will have to scratch more than the surface to reveal the deeper message they’re trying to send. Their songs are unmistakable, but each new release keeps us guessing, even when the finished product is as tightly controlled as Is the Is Are.
In contrast to 2012’s Oshin, Is the Is Are isn’t that great of a leap ahead – it’s still classic DIIV, with a little more wisdom to bring to the table. It may be on the long-winded side, but each song has something different to say, even if they all sound very similar at first. It’s this subtlety that draws the listener in and keeps them on their toes. It’s a delicate art to master, and DIIV have proven themselves to be the experts. Here’s hoping that the next release follows suit.