I didn’t like this album at first, but I’m glad that I held off writing this because over the last few weeks, it has become one of my favourite albums of 2019. My initial reaction was based more around Captured Tracks’ promotion for the album than the album itself.
Captured Tracks is one of my favourite labels. If you go through their roster, you’ll find some of my favourite bands. And if you go through their back catalogue, you’ll find a couple more albums that are absolute monsters in my music collection. Captured Tracks releases amazing, cerebral music and I’m confident that I will find something I love in every release.
But this time, I felt like Captured Tracks exploited a heroin addiction. Their press focused on Zachary Cole Smith’s problems with heroin. When the album came out, it was so dark that I found myself thinking of it as more of a cry for help than an album. Smith is brilliant, but I am genuinely worried that he will join a long list of brilliant, dead heroes.
Odd aside, but this is a great example of how parenting has changed me. In Utero used to be one of my favourite albums. I haven’t made it through the whole album since my daughter was born. Brilliant sadness used to energize me, but now it just makes me feel sad. This album is actually a lot like In Utero – Zachary Cole Smith has always claimed to love Nirvana, but I’ve never heard it in their music before. In that sense, it’s no wonder that this album made me pause when I first heard it.
Once I cast the evolution of my nerdy fanboy shit aside, I got to focus on the album. The easiest way to describe it is that if you’re already a Diiv fan, you might wonder what the fuck is going on. 2016’s “Is the Is Are” dealt with addiction, but it was light, breezy, relatively lo-fi shoegaze. This album? This album is dark, heavy and sonically dense. It is some of the most dense dream pop I have ever heard. The guitars come at you in waves, propelled by this incessant rhythm section. As the guitars swirl and overdrive, the rhythm section just keeps pounding away.
It’s very hard to compare this album to anything else that Diiv has done before. It is sonically dense and is really best appreciated on headphones. Lyrically, it’s Zachary Cole Smith’s darkest and strongest effort yet. His lyrics are dark and his voice comes in almost ghastly.
I don’t even know who to compare it to. When I’ve been trying to get people in my generation to listen to it, I’ve compared it to albums like Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins – not the singles because it’s nothing like the singles, but the really dense, dreamy parts of the album. That’s not a very good comparison, but it’s the best I can come up with. If you’re a Diiv fan, I’ll call it “Is the Is Are”‘s shadow and maybe then you’ll understand. But, words break down and you should really just give this album a stream.