Basement Dwelling: “Is The Is Are” by DIIV

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Heroin. For such a horrible substance, a lot of great art has been influenced by it. The Velvet Underground wrote a song about it (“Heroin”). The Flaming Lips made their best record under the influence of it (The Soft Bulletin). Acclaimed books have been translated into acclaimed movies about it (Trainspotting). DIIV’s (pronounced “dive”) new record Is The Is Are is a record about, well, you guessed it…heroin addiction.

Created in light of the arrest of DIIV songwriter Zachary Cole Smith and his girlfriend Sky Ferriera for drug possession, Is The Is Are is a 17-track concept album that documents addiction in DIIV’s hazy, white-washed indie rock sound, which in this context, creates a literal soundscape akin to being strung out on smack. It’s a grim listen, but a highly rewarding one from an indie act that had a lot to prove, and had a lot riding on this album.

Although I am a fan of DIIV (I love their first record, 2012’s Oshin), I can be the first to admit that I understand why a lot of people don’t enjoy them. Zachary Cole Smith is not the greatest songwriter in the world, and DIIV has pretty much used an admittedly repetitious sound for their entire career. A lot of people see this as boring, and I totally understand.

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