DIIV’S frontman’s addiction explained in new album

Stephanie Espaillat/Contributing Writer

DIIV has released their highly anticipated sophomore album, “Is the Is Are.” The band takes a familiar turn that complements their well known sound of heavy reverb and wailing guitar riffs, highly reminiscent of 90’s alternative bands such as Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and the Boo Radleys.

While also incorporating their familiar indie rock style, the album contains catchy uptempo rhythms and dreamy melodies that can also be attributed to their unique sound. Claiming to not diverge from the same style heard from their debut effort, “Oshin”  in 2012, lead singer Zachary Cole Smith suggests that the new album focuses on the importance in lyricism to create powerful vocal ballads that speak of despair and redemption.

Smith’s new album makes a clear statement that this is DIIV, and that this is what DIIV will always sound like. Even though this album took four years to make, for frontman Smith this album was either do or die. He has even suggested that he knew he had to make a great album or DIIV, and himself, were done for.

“Is the Is Are”  lyrics set up the album to be presented as an experience of Smith’s long battle with drugs, the main influence for creating his record. However, after a troubled period of hardship and struggling with addiction, the record not only brought out a chillingly dark view of his creativity, but also produced a captivating album that signifies his liberation.

It seems when you first hit the play button to listen to the opening track “Out of My Mind,” you are taken into a swirling spiral of sound enhanced by uplifting rhythms that create a sensation of boundlessness. Suggesting that we have something to look forward too. Smith begins belting out lyrics “I’m out of sight, I’m out of my mind”, hinting towards his spiraling out of control. Giving a sense of fading away, and succumbing to his addiction. This opening suggests what this record was made for. It was Smith’s challenge to remain relevant. It sets the framework and the reason for “Is the Is Are” creation.

“Under the Sun”, brings the first sense of optimism playing a repetitious rhythm that matches the tempo of a running pace. Which also describes what Smith is trying to suggest that “yes, I’ll catch up to you” and that he will reach this “sun”. Explicitly using imagery to explain his desperate escape from falling into his darkness. However, we hear the track named Dopamine that clearly states otherwise.

“Dopamine”, the first single that was released in 2015 to promote the album, is also one of the most lyrically dark tracks on the record. Blaring guitars and upbeat rhythms that seems more suited for cheerful verses instead of a period that explains the fragility of his mortality. The song is known to be his first track that Smith wrote after leaving rehab in 2014 because of his arrest for possession of heroin. Not only does the track’s name give away a clear indicator of its message, but the lyrics propose the action of being “buried down in a heroin sleep”, and no longer being able to escape this state. That he is “running in place”, and no longer going in the right direction.

“Bent (Roi’s Song)” is noted to be inspired by a psychic that told Smith’s long standing girlfriend, Sky Ferreria, that if they were to continue using drugs that one of their friends may end up dying. Ferreira who’s also featured in some songs on the album, was also mentioned to be a main influence  because of her encouragement to Smith to produce more meaningful lyrics. Smith has also indicated “Bent” as being his favorite track off the record. The captivating entry of echoey guitars, and an extremely catchy guitar riff in the middle of the song is what makes this track arguably one of the best tracks on the album.

Closer to the end of the record we hear songs such as “Take Your Time” and “Is the Is Are” as obvious suggestions of recovery and a rehabilitation period. We slowly are able to hear hopefulness coming back to Smith with lyrics saying “it works if you work it out, to clean your mind, and take your time” and “last time I walked down this street I wanted to die, now I’m fighting for my life”. These redeeming lyrics are suggesting the experience of Smith’s hardship in a long battle of addiction and loneliness that could have only unfolded in the right way with his confidence.

DIIV’s Is the Is Are has created anthems for this age that many can relate to, and is definitely one of the most anticipated releases for a reason. The distinction and uniqueness amongst the different tracks makes this album more than just special, it gives us something memorable. The vulnerable lyrics, and noticeably perfected tunes are what defines this album as well as what we can expect from DIIV in future releases.

1 Comment on "DIIV’S frontman’s addiction explained in new album"

  1. The journey through addiction, rehab and recovery is hard to explain or comprehend. When a creative mind endeavors to document it through music and lyrics, true healing can take place. Each must find his own path to recovery and this is a great example.

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