A brief history: it’s been a little less than four years since DIIV last released new music. Their moody, dreamy full length debut Oshin was released in mid 2012 to critical acclaim and saw the band touring for much of the year following. New songs started making their way into the live sets, leading fans to believe that a new album wasn’t far off. However, in September 2013, all work on a new album screeched to a halt when frontman Zachary Cole Smith and longtime girlfriend Sky Ferreira were arrested in upstate New York; Smith was charged with heroin possession and Ferreira with ecstasy possession and resisting arrest.
DIIV managed to play some shows throughout 2014 and 2015 despite the delays, but it was a full three years after the release of Oshin before DIIV not-quite-so-finally announced the sophomore LP, supposedly arriving by Fall 2015, and called Is The Is Are.
Hear is their.
Story, we is you.
Is the is are.
— DIIV (@DIIV) April 23, 2015
Despite this promise, Fall 2015 only brought four singles and another delay of the official release date to this February. So it’s been a long ride for the band and its fans, but Is The Is Are, Smith’s “one shot at immortality” arrives Friday, in the form of a sprawling 17-song double LP. In an interview with DIY magazine, Smith described the songs on the new record as “more accessible and poppier, whilst some are way darker and weirder than anything we’ve done before.” Of one of the record’s darkest cuts, and one of its first singles, Mire (Grant’s Song), Smith said in a Tumblr post that the track “will help make the album make more sense, partially [because] it makes more plain the darkness and heaviness that defines a bulk of the album, whether it’s musical, lyrical, or in some less tangible way relating to events or moments in my life around the album’s genesis… I feel like this song represents a really important aspect of this album, and to only represent the ‘pop single’ side of it wouldn’t be fair to the album itself.”
It’s hard not to compare the new album to Oshin. While there are some songs (Yr Not Far) that would fit right in perfectly with the debut, there are boundaries being pushed on this record. Valentine, for example, was an instant standout with the guitars and drums creating a groove never before heard from DIIV before boasting a descending pentatonic scale lead to accent the walking guitars. One track in particular that seemed especially promising, the long-awaited DIIV / Sky Ferreira collaboration, Blue Boredom (Sky’s Song), turned out to be a relatively boring slow piece that sees Ferreira more talking than singing, under a shroud of reverb that, ironically enough, makes “boredom” the only truly decipherable word throughout the track.
Is The Is Are is more calculated and less murky – both aspects that were lacking on Oshin, but that added to its lazy beauty. This is not to say that having a more produced record is by any means what makes Is The Is Are not as strong as its predecessor. Perhaps it’s the myriad of supposed meaning and importance that makes this record seem like it’s not everything it was chalked up to be. There are definitely some beautiful cuts strewn throughout, like Loose Ends, a track I fell in love with the first time I heard it live, Under The Sun, and album opener Out Of Mind. That said, there’s a lot of junk strewn about, like the 17-second (Fuck) and the repetitive, incoherent (Napa).
Stream Is The Is Are in full below:
Photo by Joyce Kim for Pitchfork.
Perhaps it's the myriad of supposed meaning and importance that makes this record seem like it's not everything it was chalked up to be.