If there’s one thing I’d like to get off my chest before starting this review, it’s that I would be lying to you if I said I had an extensive knowledge of DIIV’s work. Among the endless universe of new music, sometimes you miss stumbling upon a group that puts out work that really resonates with you. Finally, after admittedly an embarrassingly extended period of time without hearing of DIIV, I finally stumbled upon their lead single for this album, “Dopamine”, and needless to say was hooked. It took me back to their release prior to this one, Oshin, which certainly had a unique, punchy style. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of it- I believe that it truly lacked quite a bit in order to flesh out the songwriting, but the single from this release kept me interested enough to give the whole thing a spin, and I am certainly glad that I did.
A noticeable improvement on this record would be the production. The mixing on each track gives every instrument room to shine, including a crunchy, attention grabbing bass, along with hypnotic guitar leads and several hard hitting drum beats that demand to be driven to at night. There’s breathing room, and that allows every song to really resonate with you, more so than I can say with Oshin. The dreamy reverb and shimmering guitar tones that are tossed around this whole project are also noticeably improved, with a really strong noticeable emphasis on attention grabbing leads riffs, something that the lead single, “Dopamine” certainly holds in high regard.
Another noticeable difference that deserves recognition is that the band has seemed to take a shift of influence from dream rock and pop (which certainly still holds its’ own on the piece), to a bit of post punk, with the lead track, “Is the Is Are” taking a step back from the haziness that the band is known for, and phasing in some really attention grabbing drum sets and repetitive vocals that like to really hit the fan and while it is still easy to get lost in thought listening to a song like this, it is also just as easy to throw it on during a party and let everybody groove along.
Now, while the vocal passages that are thrown throughout the record are certainly a welcome addition to the haze, the real stand-out is the use of guitar leads, which is a large step up from Oshin. For the most part, the guitar leads are a very compelling addition to each song, and for me at least, were what kept me mainly interested throughout the 63 minute runtime. While every instrument certainly has their own time to shine (including the vocals), its’ the guitar leads that reign over everyone else, keeping each track in check and ultimately making it for an interesting listen.
Overall, Is the Is Are is the album I believe that DIIV was trying to make when they set out on Oshin. With the last record being a messy mashup of dream rock and pop, forgettable instrumental leads and vocals that really don’t compel you to listen, this piece instead learned from its’ mistakes and made a large improvement in pretty much every aspect. If you’re finished with our CD of the month, Nap Eyes’ Thought Rock Fish Scale (also out today) and are looking for a nice, dreamy alternative for some extra listening, this is where to take your ears next.
By - Adam Sputh