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New Music: DIIV

By Jason Herring, February 9 2016 —

Ever since DIIV’s exhilarating 2012 debut, band leader Zachary Smith has fielded a lot of questions about a follow-up record. Their first album, Oshin, was defined by engulfing guitar-driven musical textures. Smith, though, recently said the group was planning on expanding the parametres of their music and exploring a new direction. ENT_DIIVFixed

Now that Is The Is Are, DIIV’s sprawling, hour-long sophomore effort, is finally released, it’s surprising Smith is still writing songs built around dense guitar layers. The band’s signature dream-pop sound stays fresh for stretches of the lengthy album, but fails to captivate when spread over 17 songs.

Is The Is Are is broken into roughly three sections. Though the divisions aren’t explicit, the sonic atmosphere of the album shifts notably as the album progresses. The record kicks off with a series of upbeat tracks where Smith embraces an ethereal shoegaze sound filled with reverb-soaked guitars. Tracks like single “Under the Sun” feel like perfect lazy summertime jams, while album highlight “Dopamine” is infectious enough that it’ll be stuck in your head for days after hearing it once.

Once Is The Is Are enters its second segment, the quality drops significantly as Smith explores repetitive, krautrock-esque beats on a series of tracks that stagnate at unremarkable. “Blue Boredom,” a brooding track featuring Sky Ferreira on guest vocals, is the section’s one salvageable song.

The pace picks back up as Is The Is Are nears its conclusion. “Loose Ends” is uncharacteristically bright, with tremolo guitar riffs complementing Smith’s mumbled vocals. And “Waste of Breath” is a sombre conclusion, stripping DIIV’s sound down to a single drum beat and repeated lyrics as the album fades out.

Though Is The Is Are has its brilliant moments, it’s clear the album would have been better without some of its more pretentious excursions. Don’t waste your time with the full record — unlike most albums, DIIV’s latest is one where just listening to the singles is more than enough.

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