DIIV – Deceiver
Deceiver, the third album from Brooklyn-born/now LA-based post-punk/shoegaze quartet DIIV (pronounced “dive”) is apparently meant to be a cathartic affair. Vocalist/guitarist Zachary Cole Smith has a gentle, almost boyish voice, which makes for an interesting combination with his somber and introspective lyrics. Many of these songs apparently address his recovery from drug addiction, which caused the band to go on hiatus just as their last album (2016’s Is The Is Are) received widespread critical acclaim. Smith has been open about his struggles as he’s endured them and come out the other side, so it’s unsurprising that he’d also choose to make that the focus of the lyrics here, as well, though he manages to do so artfully enough that it doesn’t sound self-absorbed as he touches on themes of lies, consequences, and repentance.
Given this subject matter, it’s no wonder that Deceiver is a serious affair, but it is also often darkly beautiful. Smith and fellow guitarist Andrew Bailey deftly layer angular melodies over bassist Colin Caulfield and drummer Ben Newman’s intricate rhythms, and a haunting, atmospheric ambiance often overlays everything. This particular strain of melodic melancholia has been DIIV’s distinctive sound right from their 2012 debut, Oshin, arguably making them the best band in their subgenre. The first single, “Skin Game,” features the kind of intense, intricate melodies and evocative vibe that have been the hallmarks of DIIV’s best material; in a similar ominous and hard-charging vein, “Blankenship” is also compelling in its urgency. The jangling, buoyant “The Spark” captures dream pop at its best. But DIIV are not afraid to slow things down and revel in a haunting, evocative groove, which they do at both ends of this album: “Horsehead,” the opening track, captures that particular woozy, disoriented late night feeling, while “Acheron” closes things out with languid, distorted twists and turns.
While these songs may not be as instantly catchy as some of DIIV’s previous singles, Deceiver reveals itself to be a slow-burn album, the kind that rewards repeated listenings by gradually revealing a new sense of depth, maturity and honesty.