Recorded and produced by vocalist and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith, Is The Is Are, DIIV’s 17-track sophomore album, is a hazy myriad of dreamy guitar reverb enveloped by pervasive raw tones, dark lyricism and harrowing, strong vocals. Fortunately, Is The Is Are arrives just in time to move DIIV away from the controversy they have been marred by since the release of 2012 debut Oshin. Most noticeably, a 4chan scandal involving bassist Perez, the departure of drummer Colby Hewitt, and a 2013 drug arrest and a subsequent rehab-stint for Smith.
The melodic dream-pop and gorgeous fluidity of Oshin is still present in the tracks ‘Under the Sun’ and ‘Healthy Moon’, but also entwined with the energetic tracks such as ‘Dopamine’, are darker, more troubling elements emerging in ‘Incarnate Devil’. ‘Bent (Roi’s Song)’ veils its hard hitting lyrics (Fought my mind to keep my life/ But my body’s putting up a tougher fight) in the guitar haze that constantly floats over the album, culminating in the shoegazey final number ‘Waste of Breath’.
Is The Is Are spans a plethora of emotion from the sombre and lyrically dark title track (“Last time I walked down this street, I wanted to die”) encapsulating the bleak inner turmoil of drug addiction and hopelessness, to the lighter ‘Valentine’. Alongside the stand-alone singles as a highlight comes a collaboration with Sky Ferreira on Sonic Youth spoken word-esque ‘Blue Boredom’ to provide a desolate poetic two and a half minute interval.
While no doubt a braver and artistically deeper album than their summery debut, the 63 minute long Is The Is Are still isn’t the definitive masterpiece Zachary Cole Smith so desperately yearns to produce, but it’s certainly no disappointment.