Album review: DIIV’s ‘Is the Is Are’

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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  • The group’s footprint here has included a Joint residency, Kiss by Monster Mini-Golf and Kiss-themed wedding packages.

  • It has become more political, with songs about the #MeToo movement and bias in the news. And its sound is noticeably more aggressive.

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