DIIV – Is The Is Are

RT: “Blue Boredom”, “Dopamine”, “Loose Ends”, “Out of Mind”
RiYL: Real Estate, Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, Smith Westerns

Never in my lifetime I would have thought a commodity like cotton candy grapes would even exist for nationwide distribution. Last summer, I stumbled upon this phenomenon through Vogue raving on how this product exactly captures what it’s suppose to taste like. Out of my own personal experience, describing the experience would be that it initially does taste like a grape, but a subtle moment kicks in where the sugary and syrupy flavor fits to what the company assures. Genius innovation or biology at its worst, the vineyard Grapery has created hype with their promise of continuing their formula by repackaging the familiarity from exceedingly sweet candies into a container of large grapes shipped to your local Whole Foods. And that’s where DIIV reminded me of these particular kind of grapes — In which these moments of somber summertime ecstasy masking over Zachary Cole Smith’s frustrations conveyed by DIIV’s washed out formula in Is the Is Are loses its charm quickly — and with a bloated run time of 17 tracks, it becomes tiring like indulging so many grapes in one setting.

DIIV brings back the same recipe of infectious hooks and reverb heavy textures from their 2012 debut, Oshin. The eternal sounds of The Cure and the raw attitude by Can are scattered here and there, but what really shines in Is the Is Are is when DIIV breaks format. “Dopamine” has a glowing synergy with its riff/verse structure, and exquisite hooks that alongside compliments its exhilarating drumming. Sky Ferreira’s smooth guest vocals in “Blue Boredom” was refreshing, but another key element that stood out was how much “Blue Boredom” channeled early Sonic Youth by blasting guitar feedback right before DIIV goes all out. The easy breezy instrumentation, for the most part, has been criticized for not bringing anything original to the table. Another main difference is the overall ambiance seems thicker, but still faults back to  That’s besides the point, as a larger issue at hand would be DIIV painfully being reluctant of moving away from its cotton candy like instant gratification.

Lyrically, DIIV fleshes out bittersweet aches of sadness, joy, anger and other emotions that bring him into complete entropy. In the pain stricken opener, “Out of Mind”, Smith fumbles and stumbles upon psychological inertia: “I’m out of signs at the end of the line, but I’ll be fine. When it’s time I’ll know what to do.” These rare moments of clarity being a highlight are unfortunately overpowered by hazes of reverberating guitars that fabricate Cole’s vocals to being inaudible. As much as Smith wants Is the Is Are to be an open letter of downward spirals and bliss, it can generally be hard to determine how genuine Smith tries to project in his spliced up songwriting structure. These scrambled up and scattered non-lyrics juxtaposed with the interchangeably muted atmosphere strives to be consistently awe inspiring, but paradoxically unravels how tediously surface level it is and gives “smoke and mirrors” a new meaning. As much as Smith sets out in Is the Is Are to display love and be loved, the lust for pleasure becomes too ridden of excess. This feeling of pursuing indulgence can be in the same vein as desiring the tartness of regular grapes, or even the sweetness of cotton candy. Instead, it leaves an aftertaste that’s equivalent to sour grapes.