DIIV is an indie rock band that has carved out a niche in the shoe gaze/dream pop subgenera. This album starts off with quintessential shoe gaze, with the first two songs consisting of pop melodies covered up by some noise and the vocals pushed back almost to oblivion. Like most of the songs on this album, they are driven by a guitar melody (usually first introduced in the intro) and have vocals in the mix almost as another instrument. Under The Sun is undoubtedly the most popular on the album and will attract the most people to the band. The third track, “Bent (Roi’s Song),” is the first turn to the darker atmosphere that much of the rest of the album lives in, as it is much less pop-y and upbeat (this is helped by a tidbit I learned after the fact that he wrote the song about friends possibly dying of an OD). The track featuring Sky Ferreira (who is dating the lead singer) sounds like it is right out of the ’80’s, like Joy Division with a lot more reverb (maybe some Talking Heads too).
The next stretch of songs until the end of “Mire” all follow the same vein of darker shoe gaze, still with guitar pop melodies in the background, but the darkness comes to a sort of climax with the last bit of the regular song as there is only instrumentation and pushed back screams (and as someone who isn’t a fan of screaming, I still found it to sound very good). But, right at the end of “Mire,” the instrumentation changes to an upbeat synth playing a short melody, changing the tone of the album back to more upbeat for the next song “Incarnate Devil.” Don’t let the name fool you, this is a turn back to happy.
The song starts with a guitar melody again which brings the mood back up. However, there still seems to be a solo in an harmonic minor scale, bridging the gap between the beginning of the album and the middle. Next is an interlude leading into Healthy Moon, which holds a more hopeful melody and the rest of the album follows in basically the same manner. The last song “Waste of Breath,” is a very effective closer though, with very intricate and impressive layering and a somewhat badass distorted guitar cutting through the song about halfway through to pick up the tempo a bit.
Overall, this is a very impressive and appealing shoe gaze/dream pop album. The track listing is a little long, there was probably room to cut some of the songs to make it less of an epic, but a good album nonetheless, landing at an 8/10 for me.
Suggestions of other bands:
If you like the noise and/or want more: My Bloody Valentine-Loveless
If you like the first couple tracks and crave that happy/dreamy aspect: Youth Lagoon-The Year of Hibernation
Like the noise/middle tracks but want less reverb and more angst: Nirvana (band specifies them as a major influencer, their first name DIVE actually came from a Nirvana track by the same name)
If you like the album like it is, but you need more indie bands to seem cool to your friends: Viet Cong, Deerhunter, Wild Nothing
You like the dream pop aspect, but you want it sadder: Beach House-Depression Cherry
You like the jangly guitar-pop and want a lot more pop and a lot less noise: Hippo Campus-Bashful Creatures EP
If you like the synths and sadness: The Antlers-Hospice (My favorite album of all time but you have to want to be really really sad)