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Album review: DIIV’s ‘Is the Is Are’

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Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

DIIV Is the Is Are

DIIV conductor Zachary Cole Smith is a notorious Nirvana fan—the Brooklyn band was initially called Dive in part after a Bleach-era B-side—but his own musical endeavors are decidedly grunge-free. He formerly drummed for jangle outfit Beach Fossils and played guitar in the psych-poppy Soft Black, and DIIV has evolved into a group indebted to the shadowy side of ’80s college rock. On sophomore double album Is the Is Are, the grayscale “Yr Not Far” could be an outtake from The Cure’s Faith; “Blue Boredom,” featuring smoky vocals from Smith’s girlfriend Sky Ferreira—sounds like Sonic Youth at a goth club; and “Incarnate Devil” possesses disorienting coiled guitar. Is the Is Are stands above other recent attempts to recapture the past, however, due to Smith’s vulnerability. The musician kicked heroin in rehab after a 2013 arrest, and channels his newfound clarity on songs dominated by desolation, regret and free-floating anxiety. “I’ve lived 10 lives and had 10 loves/To remind me what I’ve been guilty of,” Smith murmurs on “Healthy Moon.” Beneath its amorphous honesty, Is The Is Are has a sturdy, compelling foundation.

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  • With a solidified new lineup and a memorable new record, now is the time to catch Chris Crisci and company.

  • His new band opens up for one of his original idols, Howard Jones, at the Cannery on July 13.

  • The band will celebrate its new sound with a joint release party with local blues-rock outfit Damaris, July 12 at 172 inside the Rio.

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