Theres an ineffable quality to DIIVs debut LP, Oshin, that reminds me of a friend telling me about her dream from the night before. Sometimes its actually pretty interesting, and sometimes its excruciating to help her figure out what being naked in public really means. Frontman Z. Cole Smith– who also plays guitar in Captured Tracks labelmate Beach Fossils– jangles guitar riffs along the deliberately mumbled bass and crystalline drum beats of fellow dream-gazers Real Estate, which in turn sound a lot like someone dozing off while idly dreaming of the Smiths, as Nitsuh Abebe said of Wild Nothings latest single Shadow. He may as well have been talking about DIIV: Like most dreams, that certain je ne cest quoi that seemed so compelling at the time doesnt always translate to a re-telling.
Even now, after listening to the album about 15 times, I still cant remember what distinguishes each song on the tracklist. The nouns and verbs of the (Druun)s, Past Lives, Human, Wait, Follow, Earthboy– Im not kidding, all of them– have the same rhythm and closely aligned chords that after repeated listens sound as frustratingly indiscernible as Smiths lyrics. While its a tribute to the DIIVs arrangements that Smith uses his voice as a melodic implement rather than to convey a message, the strongest tracks happen to be the ones in which you can hear what hes saying. On How Long Have You Known (which could have appeared on Days and none would be the wiser), for example, the repetition of forever very simply reinforces itself.
These songs arent unpleasant to listen to; on the contrary, like the rumor that playing classical music for babies makes them smarter, Oshins peaks and troughs are conducive to slightly different kinds of meditation. Sometime leads to brooding, most likely on the subject of love lost, and the gently picked guitars opening album closer Home sound very much like Band of Horses On My Way Back Home, which is to say theres a chord progression that encapsulates the bittersweet quality of homesickness. But like these feelings, the songs just don’t stick long enough to make more than an impression in the pillow.
Essential Tracks: “How Long Have You Known”, “Sometime”