Review: Is The Is Are by DIIV

Is The Is Are by DIIVOnce again, context plays a big part in the appreciation of DIIV’s long-awaited second album. Is The Is Are comes four years after the band’s debut Oshin: there’ve been a fair share of mishaps during the time, notably a stint in rehab for Zachary Cole Smith that informs most of the album. And then there’s the long gestation period for the album, albeit one that’s not Kanye-esque in proportions, hype-wise. The result is an enjoyable album that sees the band push the parameters a bit, while still offering reliable, familiar shoegaze for cool kids. It starts confident, and then it all gets hazy, as things get deep and a bit desperate (and yet oddly summer-y), until it all clicks together and by the last few tracks – which, by all means, is not entirely jubilant – there’s a grasp of what just happened, an acceptance, a decision to live with it. So, well, the whole rehab trip in a nutshell? Perhaps. At 64 minutes, Is The Is Are would benefit from a bit of pruning – albums of this sort tend to be a bit indulgent, and this is no exception – but DIIV make a pretty strong comeback with this one, if you could call it a comeback. [NB]4/5

“You are not the universe.”

“Zero” by Dear Plastic | Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, and we’ve mostly stopped writing entries on weekends (we still have a window for weekend posts, but we’ve never had to), the responsibility of acknowledging that people fall in love and get cheesy about it for money’s sake falls to Thursday, or, err, today. But I couldn’t think of a love song. I didn’t want to post f(x)’s “4 Walls” (solely because “love is four walls”) because we are definitely overdoing the K-pop. I can’t think of an anti-love song, either. And then I remembered Dear Plastic, the Melbourne-based band who we’ve written about twice before, just released a new single. “Zero” goes straight into freaky Portishead territory, with Scarlette Baccini’s voice just going up and down. It’s a nice song, still, and sees the band further hone their sound. Yes, this is the Valentine’s Day entry. I think it fits somehow. [NB]

“Hindi ka ba nagtataka kung bakit nandito tayo?”

“Silakbo” by MilesExperience | I was meaning to write about this song on the first installment of the Local Outsider last month, but the official video didn’t go online on time. But, well, I am still writing about this song, because I’ve been hearing a bit about MilesExperience before I began digging deep into local music. I’ve a bunch of friends from UST (where the guys come from) and they’ve been raving about them, so… well, in usual Niko fashion, I cram listening to them. “Silakbo” is the first I’m hearing. Why I withheld this long, I don’t know. The guys may have amped up their packaging as a “heavy landi metal band” but they sit nicely between the slinky and the heavy. That usually means ordinary, but it strikes me as unique in this case. Extra “hugot”, for lack of a better term. Similarly unique is Miles Bondoc’s delivery: there are no rock star affectations, and while some might think he sings like a wimp, I’ll say he’s really singing his heart out. Shots are fired, and the wounds run deep on this one. [NB]

“Lord knows these might be the roles we are meant to play.”

“Unfortunate Love” by Nuela Charles featuring Darren Frank | You know those moments when you hear a song that’s new to you, and you look it up again and you realize it isn’t? Well, this song isn’t that old, but when I dug up Nuela Charles’ “Unfortunate Love” I saw a description about how this song was on an episode of House of Lies, a show I tried watching, only to drop it after the pilot. (Not that I have time to watch anything anymore.) Anyway, Nuela: based in Edmonton, she’s won a bunch of local awards for her 2012 debut album Aware, which has gained some traction among the tastemaker set. So, yes, incredibly late, we are, to this bouncy yet sexy song, like being first to everything matters. Well, she’s working on a new album which should be out in the fall, so maybe we can be on time then? [NB]

“미처 말하지 못했어 다만 너를 좋아했어.”

“Rough” by GFriend | Shalla wrote about GFriend’s debut last year, and since then, things have changed. She absolutely does not like the group at all. Okay, maybe it’s partly because of Umji, but she’ll tell you it’s because they have not changed after three mini-albums. “Me Gustas Tu”, released last July, was still in high rotation when we went to Seoul in December, charting again because of a particularly slippery performance that went viral. (Nine million views for Yuju falling eight times!) Just two weeks back they released “Rough”, which just might prove to be the breakthrough for this Korean act. And, well, yeah, it’s a good song, but I can also see what Shalla means. The three songs are virtually similar in structure; the last two both come from the same sweeping, orchestral cloth, even. Also, GFriend seem to be stuck in this weird state of flux. All three singles present an exceedingly idyllic vision of growing up, so much so that it makes me cringe. Am I supposed to be watching this seriously? Yes, Niko, yes, and because of that serious watching you can now confidently say that GFriend is Apink with the innocence maxed out. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be for exactly. But, hey, they’re doing well in the music shows now. Either the plan is finally working, or people just want to see them graduate (what “Rough” pretty much is about) and do other things already. [NB]