On the heels of 2012’s Oshin, the group delivered the critical and fan favorite Is the Is Are in 2016. Praise came from The Guardian, Spin, Rolling Stone and more. Pitchfork’s audience voted Is the Is Are one of the Top 50 Albums of 2016, as the outlet dubbed it “gorgeous.” Simultaneously, frontman Zachary Cole Smith faced down seemingly dormant demons, and the momentum stalled.
Two years after embarking on a program of recovery, Smith has emerged with a clear head and renewed focus. For the first time, DIIV lived with songs on the road. During a 2018 tour with Deafheaven, they performed eight new compositions as the bulk of the set. The tunes progressed as the players did. By the time DIIV entered 64 Sound to record with producer Sonny Diperri, the band felt a certain confidence.
It’s evident on first single “Skin Game,” which gallops forth on a clean guitar riff before unfolding into a hypnotic hook offset by an off-kilter rhythm and hummable solo. “Being a recovering addict myself,” he says, “there are a lot of questions like, ‘Who are we? What is this disease?’ ‘Skin Game’ looks at where the pain comes from – the personal, physical, emotional, and broader political experiences feeding into the cycle of addiction for millions of us.”
A trudging groove and wailing guitar punctuate a lulling apology on the magnetically melancholic “Taker.” For Smith, it’s “about taking responsibility for your lies, their consequences, and the entire experience.” Meanwhile, the ominous bass line and crawling beat of “Blankenship” devolve into schizophrenic string bends with the vitriolic lyrics. The seven-minute “Acheron” offers a dynamic denouement, flowing through a hulking beat guided under gusts of lyrical fretwork and a distorted heavy apotheosis.
“We’re proud of this, because we earned it as a band,” Cole says. “I’m really happy and grateful just to do it in the first place. I can see the change. It’s not a record full of solutions, but I’m living my life. I’ve examined the consequences of my lies; I’ve got something to say now.”