DIIV, Oshin

Published on June 26th, 2012 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

Iona: “Why can’t we start old and get younger? I envy you. I really envy you!”
Andie: “Iona, you’re gonna OD on nostalgia.”
Pretty In Pink, 1986

DIIV oshin

“Shoegaze” is an overused buzzword these days, with a number of press releases touting bands as such, and in the process revealing that they don’t seem to understand what the word actually means. Although I haven’t yet seen the word applied to DIIV, the newest musical incarnation of Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith, it’s beyond appropriate.

The songs on DIIV’s album Oshin are dreamier than most dream pop. For someone like me, who gobbles up anything jangly, ethereal, and drenched in reverb like it was candy, Oshin made me question whether there could actually be too much of a good thing. Yet repeated listenings bear out my suspicions that DIIV can proudly stand—hunched over their guitars and probably too close to their amplifier—next to well-known predecessors like My Bloody Valentine.

The 13 songs on Oshin were written by Cole, who apparently holed up last summer in an “AC-less” small painter’s studio to write them. His vocals are mixed down so they accentuate the music instead of overpowering it. All of this gives Oshin an exceedingly cohesive, consistent quality, one which—perhaps ironically in light of my previous observation—threatens to suffocate and overwhelm the listener about six or seven songs in. Yet, a closer inspection on headphones reveals deeper beauty.

The bass, courtesy of Devin Rubin Perez, is particularly outstanding, especially on an album chock full of chiming guitar tones. This gives weight to songs that might otherwise just float away. And although fellow ’80s “revivalists” like School of Seven Bells are most frequently compared to Scottish proto-shoegaze legends Cocteau Twins, it’s truly DIIV who deserve that accolade, especially on tracks like “Earthboy” and “Follow.”

Cole has a way with a guitar hook; the songs on Oshin will bore their way into your brain just as his childlike, elfin vocals will haunt you. The lyrics are simple but evocative, with subtle word play like innocent/in a city (“Wait”) and forever/if ever (“How Long Have You Known?”—watch the video here).

The last three songs on the album—”Oshin (Subsume),” “Doused,” and “Home”—are outstanding, and their darker undercurrents push Oshin from merely “very good” into “great” territory. If these tunes point the way to the sound of future DIIV releases they will be a formidable band indeed.

“Doused” is exceptional, with a constantly repeated musical motif that almost sounds like an oboe. It is as good—and as good in the exact same ways—as songs like “Constant In Opal” and “Reptile” by The Church. And if you know anything about my love for those two songs, you’ll know how much it means for me to write that.

In the end, DIIV has gifted listeners with an album that may have been inspired by heat and humidity, but which feels like it could work just as beautifully in frigid winters. I look forward to enjoying Oshin as much when the temperatures dip into the single digits as I am right now, sweating through the summer.

Oshin is out today on Captured Tracks and can be ordered from the label’s website. Check out the band on Facebook to stay updated on tour dates and future releases. Stream the album at Stereogum here.

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