Zachary Cole Smith will remember this album for its guitar driven melodies, hard to decipher vocals and a timbre that could be described as floaty or wispy. So, anybody going into Is the Is Are, DIIV’s follow-up, would expect those same components that made Oshin a stand-out. Indeed, all of those components are intact here. Anybody who was a a fan of Oshin won’t find any reason to dislike Is the Is Are. But at the same time, anyone who wasn’t a fan of Oshin won’t find much here to change their minds on the band.
That is not to say that there is no new direction to be found on Is the Is Are. The vocals, while still not prominent in the mixing, are more successful in giving some new hooks to tunes. For instance, in “Dopamine,” the verses all start with the line “Shots ring out / I’m soaking / eardrums shaking,” and even though that is hardly what is happening in the song when listening to it, it gets caught in your head.
The album also gives a sense this time that members other than Smith were major contributors to the songwriting process, and it especially shows in bassist Devin Perez’s inputs. In Oshin, the songs were heavily reliant on Smith’s guitar work, but here, songs such as “Valentine” are more inclined to let the rhythm sections do the work for most of the song with the guitar only coming in at certain portions. These developments make for a more heterogeneous listening experience, but overall, Is the Is Are stays in familiar territory.
Recommended If You Like: Wild Nothing, The Drums, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Under the Sun), 4 (Dopamine), 10 (Mire (Grant’s Song))
Do Not Play: 12 (F*ck), 15 (Napa)
Written by Adam Raimond on 02/26/16