The category is already tilted: I haven’t listened to much albums from November or December, yet here sits the writer handwringing about which album is his favourite of the year. No less letting them marinate in the barbecue pit of my mind or researching the list of top albums he missed from last year only to let those marinate in his mind. In short, don’t expect a best of list for the year until the end of January, the Super Bowl of the Grammies, which ever one really gets his goat first. But because the category is already tilted, why bother picking the best album of the year when he can just pick a favourite?
Hence Deceiver, DIIV’s latest record, one that comes to terms with the strain of staying sober rather than the overall rosy portrait of the criminal rise, fall and redemption of a heroin addict—the sort of portrait of the tortured musician that scenekids and pop culture junkies alike buy into even if they never bought into the original sound. With more twisted, noisy Sonic Youth riffs to boot! Where DIIV once intimated that they were fans of the avant-garde no wave noise rock musicality and then drowned themselves in the underground of Anglo-American guitar loopers and ambient-heads, now they hardly hide it: the record cuts like a bent sawblade for a heroin spike.
Messy and rusting blood on everything, because it’s not so much that DIIV changed their music as they dirtied it up, made it jagged and moody, in their pursuit of the same muse—thank God they did, otherwise everyone would be complaining about the lack diversity in DIIV’s portfolio—citing Wire, Medicine and Sonic Youth and employing producer Sonny Diperri to create a sonic-adjacent third record in as many tries. And that may offend some listeners who consider Oshiin and Is The Is Are two separate distinct double records when really they are but debut and continuation to a primordial, punkish dreampop sound. Far be it to decry either as bad; but the sudden abundance of viscera strewn all along Deceiver makes Is The Is Are a somewhat hollow experience when considering both are collection of messages in a bottle for the struggling addict. Bobbing at the forefront is “Skin Game.” It’s only real comparable precedent being “Take Your Time,” and even then, it’s dreampop rush is nothing compared to the knotty, wrenching, handsy Thurston Moore-esque riffs rifling through the bridge.
The writer likes to remember an impromptu interview after the Portland edition of the Desert Daze Caravan tour of 2018, where the questions were coated in cannabisical nonsense and the answers were the results of a tour gone somewhat wrong (the roster of four having been reduced to two). Ariel Pink’s massive recreational vehicle made DIIV’s van seem ever the more tiny, but also made the situation for a novice blogger less intimidating and thus two things were established: (1) his heart can pronounce DIIV as DEEEEV all it wants, but it’s still wrong; “Dive” being the correct pronunciation, named so in respect to the Nirvana tune and changed out of respect to a Belgian industrial group. (2) That Sonic Youth sticker on the back of the van meant more than just conspicuous consumerism—these guys were serious about their tastes being represented in their music.
However, that’s just one parcel among many bobbing on the soupy musicality, one comparison when so many more come to a head as the cuts peel back the album’s runtime and reveal proclivities for the noisey, a formula for attack and release. Light melodies alongside earth shattering timbre, it’s not all Sonic Youth, cuts like “Taker,” “Lorelei” and “Acheron” produce an outcome imbued with hints of confessional Slint and Talk Talk, a post-self-apocalypstic rock of sorts. But not too much—if they did too much they would start diving into the ambient (Sigur Rós) or dip into the neo-classical (Godspeed You! Black Emperor). He can’t speak to If These Trees Could Talk, due to a writer’s stunning lack of ambition and goalsetting—he could listen to them, or he could just listen to this King Gizzard record for another spin.1
Regardless the specifics on which band and who DIIV have come to resemble in sonic, they are far gone from the upscale Slowdive and Ride neophytes, the upbeat Blood Valentiners of Oshiin.
And this might all seem moot, that these bands cited were either part of The Scene that Celebrates Itself, The Scene that Grunged Itself or The Scene that Hates Britpop (editor’s note: big mood) and that they all seem to revolve around the same philosophy for noise but, in reality, what DIIV has done is to take these noise rock genres and filter them into a progressively more refined musicality yet emotionally raw lyricism; their sound having moved from dreampop to shoegaze and now to noise rock, the logical progression is to engage in some more overt post-rock impulses. However that might be making the mountain from the molehill in wont for a narrative. It’s incredibly attractive to view an act’s releases as a trilogy, a tetrarchy and so on, and the writer must admit to his doing so, especially when giving consideration that Deceiver is a gritty sequel to Is The Is Are, a sort of John Wick: Chapter 3 to John Wick: Chapter 2. Ostensibly, this does make Oshiin comparable to John Wick. The story of this band is both self-contained and episodic while also retaining and expanding upon overarching concepts.
But only Deceiver and John Wick 3 were released this year and thus only they can receive consideration for the writer’s best-of-the-year thoughts. And what both provide is very dependable products, Deceiver mastering is in line with prior release quality, bandleader Zachary Cole Smith along with Andrew Bailey, Colin Caulfield and Ben Newman are diving further into elemental aspects of their musical impulses, and one hopes that they are ready to transition from the elemental to the transcendental soon, but for now the primordial gumbo is still damn good enough to guzzle.
1. In this regard, I am quite confident in to reason that King Gizzard is quite probably my band from the Klosterman rule in the possessive way only a music geek can get: everything relates through them. They are a band that I probably think about more than once every month even after their latest album is no longer item of the day. This being consistent with a general philosophy that each person looks at life through a fractured lens, but a music fan’s lens is watermarked by the bands that they hear, see and thus feel. Expounded, that means art fans probably view life through the pieces they enjoy or that literature critics experience life by the page. So where Klosterman thinks in terms of Kiss, I think in terms in of King Gizzard. Thus my lack of willpower to sit down finally listen to If These Trees Could Talk, because I hardly think about them until it is exactly 22 minutes past midnight and 2 days past deadline. Writing is 90 percent thinking and 10 percent writing.
Album Artist: DIIV
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Sonny Diperri
Label: Captured Tracks
Genre: Shoegaze, Noise Rock, Slowcore
“Like Before You Were Born”
“For the Guilty”