A rocky few years in lead singer Zachary Cole Smith’s life left an indelible mark on the tracklist of DIIV’s Is the Is Are. All told, the band’s sophomore effort (their first album, Oshin, was released in 2012) is the record of a difficult birth – beneath the distortion, the melodic basslines, the wall-of-sound forged by guitars, are deeply dark lyrics.
For starters, there’s “Blue Boredom,” Smith’s collaboration with Sky Ferreira. Ferreira’s delivery, nine parts sigh and one part song, does the track’s tone-poem lyrics justice. What to make of lyrics such as these?: “Thief for a chance / Kiss for a catch / Blue flower / Blue boredom!” A vague impression of something gone wrong, as when she sings, “Bad stick / Bad fit” – something’s gone rotten in the state of Sky.
With no plotline of lost love to anchor “Blue Boredom,” no well-defined target for angst or rage or (*intense emotion*), the lyrics wander. True to name, they’re unified only by a sensation of sad – blue – and the disinterest of their singer. Sky’s song of blue-hued ennui drew me in, abstracted lyrics or otherwise.
Despite the album’s emotional weight, Is the Is Are is marked by DIIV’s trademark levity – the bass trundles onwards, but never feels like a rock in the sonic stream; distortion and layered guitars, rather than sounding confused or overwrought, feel impressionistic. Is the Is Are is an album of opposites, a sentiment best expressed by Smith himself:
“it is a diverse record, it is a happy record, a sad record, a happysad, sadhappy, mad, glad, quiet, mad, dark, glad, poppy, fast, slow, heavy, fast, peaceful, angry, chaotic, beautiful, lost/found, ugly, dry, wet, fuck, fast, dead, heartbroken, in love, loud, quiet, loud, loudquiet, quietloud, happy, mad, quiet, fuck, and loud record. please like it. please love it. do you love me? DIIV is the real me. fuck, xo cole”
Listen here. Image from here.