Basement Dwelling// Diiv: Is The Is Are

Heroin: For such a horrible substance, a lot of great art has been influenced by it. The Velvet Underground wrote a song about it (“Heroin”) The Flaming Lips made their best record under the influence of it (The Soft Bulletin) Acclaimed books which have been translated to acclaimed movies have been made about it (Trainspotting) Diiv’s new record Is The Is Are is a record about you guessed it… heroin addiction. Created in light of the arrest of Zachary Cole Smith and his girlfriend Sky Ferreira for drug possession Is The Is Are is a 17 track concept record that documents addiction in Diiv’s hazy white washed indie rock sound which in this context creates a literal soundscape to being strung out on smack. It’s a grim listen, but a highly rewarding one from an indie act that had a lot riding and a lot to prove with this album

I’m a fan of Diiv, I love their first record 2012’s Oshin. With being a fan of Diiv though i can be the first to admit I see why a lot of people don’t enjoy them. Zachary Cole Smith is not the greatest songwriter in the world and Diiv has pretty much rode a sound their entire career that is admittedly repetitious. To a lot of people they see it as boring, and I totally understand. Then you have others who are turned off by Smith’s persona of being the current world of Indie music’s Kurt Cobain. A self destructive figure who has gotten in a lot of heat in the press but maintain’s a cult like fan base that adore him and the sounds he creates. While I never cave into trivial ideas like that towards how I view one’s work, I can understand some of the hate they receive for that too. The genius thing about Is The Is Are is that it uses these characteristics which can be seen as flaws and uses them in its favor.

While not the bold leap musically that Smith promised the record would be in interviews, Is The Is Are does have a stronger sense of variety and meatiness to it. From the bright jangle pop of”Under The Sun”; the indie rock murk of “Bent (Roi’s Song)” and “Dust” and the almost ballad like “Healthy Moon” Diiv manages to show a growth in musical range while at the same time remaining in their comfort zone which is pretty impressive.  One thing that really stands out on this record is the obvious worship of early Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine which is very evident on this album, most notably on “Blue Boredom (Sky’s Song)” which if you would have played that song for me not telling me who it was I would have guessed it was a b-side from Evol era Sonic Youth. From the structure of the song itself to that fact that guest vocalist Sky Ferreira sounds just like Kim Gordon on this track, it’s a really nice homage.  What kills some of the momentum on this record though is the song structures being a little to similar to each other. When you have an album that has this flaw and you’re record is an hour plus long and features 17 tracks this could be disastrous and it almost is once you get towards the end of this record and it starts to feel like you’ve already heard the songs here prior in the record. Then “Dust” comes on and due to that songs radness makes everything alright once again.

When you boil it down, Diiv’s music and this record in particular isn’t supposed to rely on song structure; at it’s core Diiv is a project about feeling, texture, flourishes and details in music and how that can and should evoke awe in a bands work; and it has which really sets them apart from a lot of other acts in the indie music world. Diiv as a whole is an experience piece, and when their music is used in particular how it is on Is The Is Are; to pain a picture of despair, addiction, hurting others due to your bad influence that experience becomes even more powerful. The album is kind of like an addictive substance within itself, you know it’s not the best thing for you, but it’s a pleasurable experience, and one that you feel the need to return to because it’s so alluring. This substance though is totally good for you so feel free to drop the needle…and give in


Daniel R. Fiorio

Writer, blogger, record collector/music fanatic, comic book junkie, jerkstore/all around nice dude from the south suburbs of Chicago

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