Jun 26, 2012 Issue #41 - Yeasayer
After a bevy of 7-inch releases, incendiary live shows, and blog hype that's gradually built to a fever pitch, DIIV have at last delivered their debut LP, Oshin. Upon first exposure, it doesn't seem highly dissimilar to frontman Zachary Cole Smith's other band and Captured Tracks labelmates Beach Fossils, with whom Smith plays guitar. But dig deeper and you'll realize that Smith slyly subverted the conventional Captured Tracks artist template, one of releasing a home-recorded album as an opening volley à la Wild Nothing or Craft Spells. DIIV, in contrast, honed their chops before venturing into a studio to record Oshin, and it's clearly the product of a band in a conventional sense, one tightened like a corkscrew by relentless touring and songwriting.
Smith is certainly the fulcrum of the act as the chief songwriter, and his sinewy guitar leads and yearning, sad-eyed vocals lend such tracks as "How Long Have You Known?" a quixotic, dreamlike quality akin to classic C86 acts. But the entire band shines here, particularly drummer Colby Hewitt, ex of Smith Westerns, who provides a dynamic rhythmic throttle throughout. He's supple on "Wait," a track that bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic Chills single "Pink Frost," and metronomic and restrained on the hypnotic "Air Conditioning," adroitly manipulating the tension simmering just beneath the surface of the track's Neu!-inflected groove.
The record concludes with a wistfulness vaguely reminiscent of The Field Mice, but unlike the treacle U.K. twee progenitors' work, Oshin engenders a nefarious sense of danger, like a hornet's nest lurking ominously over its head. The album's closing track "Home" is the purest distillation of this aesthetic, finding Smith wistfully incanting, "You'll never have a home until you go home" over a celestial soundscape. It's an elliptical, contradictory sentiment that echoes the utter ambivalence that suffuses Oshin. It hints that Smith hasn't found what he's looking for throughout this epic 13-song journey. Yet he's torn his guts out and seemingly had the time of his life while fitfully trying. (www.capturedtracks.com/artists/dive)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10