DIIV (formerly Dive, the change coming just over a week ago) are a young, Brooklyn-bred four-piece making good, if not particularly original, music. It’s not an awful thing, their lack of originality. They’re still building a sound, trading heavily in old influences, piping it through effects and reverb pedals linked to frontman Zachary Cole Smith’s monstrous, jangling lead guitar, and packaging it up as a 7-inch or sub-60-minute live show. DIIV sound like first-generation offspring of indie’s lo-fi and summer-obsessed phase, mixed with late-’80s, early-’90s Brit dreampop and shoegaze. They’re touring in support of Oshin—their soon-to-be-released debut album on Captured Tracks—which, from the recently-released singles, sounds mature enough, arranged carefully and thoughtfully, traits not necessarily associated with a debut album from a band so young and so casually clumped together with other “fuzz-loving indie” acts. That “maturity” though, is easy enough to capture when the structure and sound has been so carefully followed and built before, by others, to varying degrees of success.
Smith seemed maybe nervous, maybe shy, maybe self-aware, standing in front of the really fun, really enthusiastic Valentine’s crowd. He’d smirk at times, turn away from the crowd, aware he missed a note, aware he was singing a probably-too-personal lyric. He’d wrap songs with a simple “Thank you, we’re DIIV, thanks” that had the speed and intensity of someone really not interested in engaging in stage banter—either because he didn’t know what to say, or was too reserved to say it. To Pitchfork last month, Smith said “[I] always intended for [DIIV] to grow up in the public eye,” which is clearly what’s happening here. I’m willing to buy that, and have.
Later, Frankie Rose and her backing three piece offered a counterpoint to DIIV’s youthful exuberance and sense of musical discovery. Rose, at 33, has passed the three decade mark, a milestone for musicians operating within a group of genres too often obsessed with youth and youth culture. Her age has led her to know the music she wants to make. Of turning 30, aging gracefully, and losing some of the sound that marked her earlier music (Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose and the Outs), Rose recently told the Village Voice she knows herself better, “work[s] with what [she’s] got” and knew she had to make a different record, something “bigger and cleaner and more cinematic” when compared to her previous work. She did, on this year’s Slumberland-released Interstellar, an album whose tracks were the centerpiece for her short, charming set.
Rose too, like Smith, seemed overly self-aware, to the point where it may have actually hindered her set. She admitted to not being able to play slow songs live—“too much going on”—and would laugh or roll her eyes through the la-la’s and ooh-aah’s that bridged chorus to verse. She was hyper-aware that she was on stage, performing for a small group, with musical idols playing upstairs (she professed her love for Pierced Arrows, ex-Dead Moon, openly wishing they’d finish their set early to come down and watch her). When Rose did ignore those tendencies, and let tracks like “Interstellar” fly, she shone.