Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part One Best of 2016



20. DIIV
Is the Is Are
(Captured Tracks)
 
Emerging out of a chaotic period marked by increased drug use, frontman Zachary Cole Smith's high-profile arrest with girlfriend Sky Ferreira and a stint in rehab, DIIV's sophomore release may not be the grand deviation from their debut that the band had been building up to, but it bears a focused worldview that's the product of a difficult and emotional time in Smith's life.
 
Filled with doubt and disillusion, Is the Is Are is more of a cautionary tale about the impact drug abuse can have, rather than a celebratory ode to getting high. Wrapped in dreamy guitars that hold space like a thick fog setting in around you and a rhythm section that pushes everything forward, Smith's lyrics are littered with images of self-doubt, recovery culture, his battles with addiction and the tangled web of emotions and insecurities that substance abuse can both highlight and reinforce in someone.
 
Given his trajectory, Smith easily could have slipped away into the darkness like too many young artists have — instead he turned in one of the year's most revealing and magnetic albums.
Anthony Augustine