Having played with lo-fi janglers Beach Fossils (QRO photos), it’s unsurprising that Zachary Cole Smith’s solo project DIIV continues to mine the dreamy, melodic guitar aesthetic that threatens to consume indie rock. As fates go, there are worse ones. Acts like Kurt Vile (QRO live review), Real Estate (QRO live review), Lotus Plaza, and the aforementioned Beach Fossils are some of the most visible promulgators of the guitar-led cause, reasserting the instrument’s place at the forefront of alternative music. On their debut album Oshin, DIIV employ the elements of this sound to their own ends, crafting an album that’s darker and more contemplative than most of their contemporaries.
DIIV’s first singles were recorded by Smith himself (as ‘Dive’) but the decision to form a band and flesh these out was well made.He has readily admitted that early incarnations of “Geist” and “Sometime” were a little lacking and on the LP proper, the combined efforts of Smith and his bandmates have succeeded in fully realizing the potential of these earlier works.The shift to a full band has also introduced a welcome uniformity to the project’s distinctive sound ensuring the tracks here feel of a piece.
All songs are not created equal, however, and the album’s standouts are manifestly evident from your first listen through. “How Long Have You Known?” will be finding its way onto any number of songs-of-the-year lists, a perfectly cut indie-rock diamond with a throwaway chorus just vague enough to sound profound. Early track “Human”‘s guitar-part has a bittersweet melancholy to it that immediately draws you in, while the re-recording of “Sometime” has only improved an already impressive song. Penultimate track “Doused” breaks from its surroundings with a forceful momentum mostly absent elsewhere, and if you threw Dylan Baldi on it, you’d have a new Cloud Nothing (QRO live review) single.
The strength of these can make other numbers feel a little extraneous. “Earthboy” doesn’t explore any new territory, ponderously drudging to its conclusion and the menacing, bass-propelled instrumental “Druun Pt II” while reminiscent of The Cure’s “Primary” feels a little undercooked. It demands a vocal component; hopefully something added in future live performances. The concluding track, “Home”, is too calculatedly a final song, seemingly pushing you out the door even as you want the performance to go on and you will want it to continue. This is a strong album immune from its few deficiencies.
MP3 Stream: “How Long Have You Known?“