Diving in with both feet

The Brooklyn indie four-piece fully embraces lo-fi post-punk nostalgia and let their instruments do the talking on their stellar debut album, 'Oshin'


If you were among the few hundred people at the Beach Fossils show in Bangkok last year, then you probably don't need an introduction to DIIV, a side project-turned-full-fledged-band of Beach Fossils' guitarist Zachary Cole Smith. For the uninitiated, however, DIIV began in the confines of Smith's bedroom before growing to a full band comprising Andrew Bailey (guitar), Devin Ruben Perez (bass) and Colby Hewitt (drums). Formerly called Dive, the band changed its name to DIIV to avoid being confused with a Belgian band of the same name.

Oshin (that's ''ocean'' to you and us) opens with (Druun), an instrumental track that sets the tone of the album brilliantly. The infectious drums and the gorgeous guitar work together and speak more than any lyrics ever could. The track oozes incredible flow and fluidity _ qualities seldom associated with rock music. Past Lives promptly follows, with ample offerings of reverb and Smith's mumbled words.

Distorted guitars and vague vocals continue on Human. Again, we're not really sure what Smith is singing about, but his voice evokes emotions, complementing the other instruments like it was one of them. Air Conditioning precariously blurs the line between instrumental and half-sung tune. While the singing here is reduced to a mere afterthought, the two flirting guitars take precedence and carry us to a safe place.

The album's most lucid moment, though, lies within the melodic lushness that is How Long Have You Known? The lyrics, consisting of repeated: ''How long have you known?/How long has it shown?/Forever, forever, forever ...'' are minimal at its best not to mention irresistibly catchy. On Wait and Earthboy, the quartet proudly wear their post-punk influences on their sleeves, leading us to reminisce about legendary new-wave pioneers such as the Cure and New Order.

Fronted by another instrumental track Druun Pt II, the record's second half contains an equal, if not more, amount of haze and layers of spectral guitar riffs. Follow and Sometime could easily pass as one song whereas the menacing Oshin (Subsume) builds the tension needed for Doused: ''Never had you run so far/But you really gotta get away/You know it in the nighttime running to it,'' Smith gets uncharacteristically eloquent, ''Caught a rising star but then you let it drop into the ocean now the water's running through it.'' The highs of Doused then quickly dissolves into Home, the album's stunning closing number.

Elemental and instrumental, Oshin takes us on a (mostly) wordless journey underwater. While such guitar-dominated music can be a smothering experience for some, beneath the muddled vocals and the fuzzed-out effects, the instruments are allowed plenty of room to breathe freely and plenty of time to play with one another. The guitars, the bass and drums are emotive and articulate. The ebb and flow between the songs is flawless. Oshin makes us not want to come up for air.


Two Popetorn/ Pood Tammai (Don't Say That You Do)

Inspired by '60s Motown, Pood Tammai (Don't Say That You Do) is a soul-tinged ditty from homegrown R&B crooner Popetorn Soonthornyanakij, aka Two Popetorn. Here, the 30-year-old singer is asking his soon-to-be ex-lover to spare him unnesscary grievance. ''If you're breaking up with me/Why are you still bother with saying that you love me.'' This is a fun, vibrant song that showcases Two's vocal ability as well as his playful personality. It's a breakup song that you can shamelessly bob your head along to.

Inc/ 5 Days

Hailing from LA, a brother duo Andrew and Daniel Aged, collectively known as Inc, are the latest to hop on the indie R&B trend that's been buzzing for the past year. Taking a cue from acts such as How To Dress Well, Active Child and more recently, Holy Other, the Ageds put minimalism in an R&B context, resulting in a stunning marriage of sounds. Devoid of R&B pizazz, their single 5 Days works like a quietly brewing storm, further fuelled by Andrew's soulful voice which so far has critics eagerly comparing him to the music legend Prince. Well, who are we to disagree. The song will be included on their debut album, No World, due out next month.

Chloe Howl/ No Strings

Wait, are we hearing Foster the People's highly contagious Pumped Up Kicks groove in that intro? The similarity is so striking we're having a hard time chalking it up to coincidence _ listen and decide for yourself. Other than that, No Strings is a funky synth-pop jam courtesy of Chloe Howl, the latest British pop upstart who evokes memories of so many female artists before her. She has the attitude and vocal style of Adele and Pixie Lott while possessing as much spunk of Jessie J and Lily Allen. ''You don't even know if I'm the right sex, do ya?'' the 17-year-old artist casually drops the punch line.

A$AP Rocky/ Long Live A$AP

New York rapper A$AP Rocky has been in the game more than half a decade, but the guy is only just releasing his debut solo album, LongLiveA$AP, this year. Following the album's first two singles, Goldie and F***in' Problem, the title track begins with him reminiscing: ''I thought I'd probably die in prison/Expensive taste in women.'' The highlight is when he goes on to sweetly claim: ''Who said you can't live forever lied/Of course I'm living forever I'll forever, I'll live long,'' against the spare, almost otherworldly, acoustic breakdown.

Royksopp/ Running to the Sea

The Norwegian electronic duo is back with a new material after their pensive 2010 release, Senior. Featuring an ethereal voice of Norwegian vocalist Susanne Sundfor, Running to the Sea is classic Royksopp in which Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland conspire to create an expansive piece of ambient music that simply takes your breath away. The track starts with the tender piano intro before Sundfor follows suit with her equally delicate vocal delivery. After the long-winded year of wobbling bass and synths that was 2012, this subdued, gorgeous slab of downbeat couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

About the author

Writer: Chanun Poomsawai