Many artists create so they can find some sort of catharsis or understanding in the way they act or interact with others. The process of working on yourself through your music isn’t necessarily a new thing but it’s one that comes up over and over again. It’s one of the things that is infinitely relatable to most people in the world. On DIIV’s new album Deceiver, the Brooklyn based band documents a rebirth of sorts, one that has transpired when everything else has fallen apart. It’s no secret that band leader Zachary Cole Smith has struggled over the past few years and, with Deceiver, he, with bandmates Andrew Bailey [guitar], Colin Caulfield [bass], and Ben Newman [drums], confront this struggle head on and craft a soundtrack to their own, in and many ways everyone’s, personal redemptions.
Working with producer Sonny Diperri (My Bloody Valentine, NIN, M83) DIIV have stepped up their sonic palette, while rich before, comes across as more full and crystal clear now. On album opener “Horsehead” the four piece set a languid pace with richly chiming guitars, that never compete with each other, and perfectly balanced tension filled vocal harmonies that casually intersect but never overwhelm the other. It’s a nice balancing act that the band continues with all over the album. There’s a lot of parts going on in every song but there is also a surprising amount of space, allowing all these parts to breathe on their own. DIIV played these songs live for months before they even set foot into the studio and that work ethic is here on display. This feels very much a collaborative effort between all four members in terms of how fully realized all the songs feel and gel together. Lead single “Skin Game” is a real treat. It’s steady drums keeping all the other elements, buzzy guitars and vocal melodies that remain hooky even though they feel like they have been dipped in heavy molasses, consistent and in check. DIIV’s influences are on display all over every song on Deceiver. You can hear traces of Elliott Smith on tracks like “Between Tides” with it’s lovely double tracked vocals that refuse to get swallowed up by the grinding guitars that overtake the song. “For The Guilty” has that 90s shoegaze vibe down pat. Opening up with pulverizing guitars that settle and open up into a beautiful spacious verse before rearing their majestic heads again in the tension filled chorus. “The Spark” is wondrous power pop filtered through DIIV’s claustrophobic filter. Album highlight “Blankenship” is so close to straining that it feels like it might erupt at any point but the band delicately keeps it all together.
DIIV have come back together sounding renewed, refreshed and with something to say about taking responsibility for their past actions and seemingly determined to use those lessons in their lives moving forward. It’s a disciplined record that doesn’t sacrifice the touchstones that made the band exciting to begin with. Through their work on Deceiver, DIIV have found that sweet spot of writing to exorcise their own demons all the while helping the listener with theirs. Rebirth has never sounded so good.
review by Adam Fink
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