What I’m listening to: DIIV

DIIV—formerly known as DIVE—has finally arrived. Now it’s time to dive right in.

Oshin—the debut record from Brooklyn band DIIV—seems like it’s been forever in the making. Really, it’s been less than a year: from the release of first single “Sometime” in October 2011 to Oshin’s release this week. Of course, between then and now, it feels like DIIV has dominated the blogosphere—releasing no less than 6 singles (each one picked up by P’fork) and showingly changing their name from DIVE to DIIV—thus ensuring the greater music world’s investment months before Oshin’s release. “I always intended for DIIV to grow up in the public eye,” explains band leader Zachary Cole Smith to Pitchfork. We say: mission accomplished.

Of course building up hype beforehand can be tricky, should a band fail to live up to expectations—and luckily for all, DIIV more than deliver. Oshin is a thick, dreamy record of blissed-out soundscapes, that conjures feelings of summertime and relaxation, perfect for lazy summer mornings or languid walks around the city.

It’s interesting to note though that with all the hype, only a fraction has focused on Smith himself, who first created DIIV as a bedroom project. Smith’s done interviews of course—but mostly press has zoomed in on the details of the songs—the wiggly melodies and undulating bass lines and the way the songs make you feel. And really, that’s what Oshin is all about—sounds and feelings.

“[The songs on Oshin fall into] two categories,” explains Smith to Spinner—“ones that are super personal and about my life, about my dad, different girlfriends I've had and different parts of my life… and then there are songs that are just about the world, and the way things are.”

Lofty subject matter to be sure, but Oshin captures both through nuanced instrumentation and playful, dreamy, guitar lines, which draw you in and envelop you in their power. It should be noted that there are very few vocals on Oshin; rather songs flow together almost without distinction, like the soundtrack to an underwater documentary.

The record opens with the ambiguously titled “(Druun),” a glittering mix of steady bass + percussion, with a guitar line that seems to dance on top. From there, it ebbs into “Past Lives,” a fluid, layered track that introduces vocals into the mix—here hushed, choral, and filtered through vintage-sounding equipment. “Human” returns again to scintillating guitar pop, with a hint of surf jangle that reminds me of standing on the beach at sunrise, surveying the trash and sea life that wash up on shore. “Air Conditioning” ups the Krautrock influence, with an endlessly oscillating bass line—while “How Long Have You Known?” strikes a balance between breezy surf pop and skull-burrowing melody, both demanding answers and reveling in uncertainty.

And that’s sort of how it goes, evoking feelings with one song only to bleed seamlessly into the next, as if with the ocean’s (the oshin’s?) rise and fall. There are certain songs that stand out for sure—“How Long Have You Known,” the new wave-inspired “Sometime,” the bleak, post-punk-y “Doused”—but Oshin’s success lies more in the spaces between the songs, and the emotional trajectory of the record as a whole. I’m particularly fond of Pretty Much Amazing’s description: “[It’s like] standing in a cavernous room with hazy beams of light coming in from slits in the walls.” I imagine too exploring underwater (oxygen tank strapped to my back) watching coral burst open then close defiantly as predators swim by.

The record closes with the bittersweet “Home,” a mellow, narcotic offering which features Smith crooning, “you’ll never have a home, until you go home,” over and over, over circular guitars. It’s safe to assume that this tune falls into the “personal” category—Smith’s stated before that one (unfortunate?) result of constant touring is never having a real place to live. Then again, not all who wander are lost—sometimes, they’re just enjoying the journey.

Stream Oshin for free right now; or scoop it up via Captured Tracks.


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