Monday, 8 February 2016

Music Monday

This week's single, 08/02/16:

Is the Is Are - DIIV

This week's single is one that was released a few weeks ago and I've chosen it in celebration of the release of DIIV's new album of the same title. Cast your mind back to 2012 and the release of DIIV's debut Oshin, an album of summery, washed out dream-pop layered atop the soft murmurs of Zachary Cole Smith. Oshin was a light, easygoing affair, the kind of album that lets you float away from reality for a while into a dazed kind of dreamscape. Cole Smith's latest venture, which he recorded and produced himself, doesn't have the same feel to it. Whereas Oshin was all about escapism and summer months that go on 'forever and ever and ever and ever', Is the Is Are focuses on immediacy. They've upped the tempo and the sound is sharper, though vocals largely remain almost intelligible beneath some of the harsher guitar hooks. The most noticeable difference is the heaviness attached to the new album, and Is the Is Are as a single shows off this intensity.

'I feel like I'm fighting for my life' is one of the repeated lines in the track, just a small taste of the poignancy packed into the new double-LP. One doesn't have to wonder about the origins of such feeling as the band's tumultuous past few years have been under extensive public scrutiny. Guitarist Andrew Bailey's 2013 stint in rehab was only the beginning of the troubles, with Smith's arrest for heroin and ecstasy possession alongside his girlfriend Sky Ferreira making matters worse later in the year. In early 2014 Smith checked into rehab. Further issues arose when bassist Devin Ruben's sexist and racist 4chan comments were discovered, and in 2015 drummer Colby Hewitt left the band, reportedly as a result of his own drug problem. DIIV's second album is an emotional rendering of Cole Smith's harrowing struggle with addiction and the maturity of the sound comes as no surprise given such subject matter.

The title track begins with a looping guitar hook reminiscent of the band's earlier dream-pop but the sound is less woozy, the lyrics more hitting, the message more direct. It's a hard-hitting song, but one with sharp scintillating riffs that engage the listener more fully than most of Oshin did. Is the is Are is a track in which Cole Smith repeats lyrics in a mantra-like manner, and the mantra is a bleak one at that, but the meaning behind this and other tracks on the mammoth album has been a means for DIIV to develop their sound and create something harsher, sharper and more engaging. Is the Is Are is no Oshin: the listener isn't likely to be sent into that familiar dream-pop induced daze to which they've become accustomed. Instead they should expect discovery, revelation: though their dreaminess hasn't disappeared entirely, this is a rockier side of DIIV that wasn't previously apparent.

Listen to the single in the Spotify player below.


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