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Vinyl Feature: Is the Is Are - DIIV

Over the years, I've come to enjoy listening to music on vinyl. I'm a big fan of the collection aspect behind the whole thing. Trying to be one of the first to snag a limited edition pressing, or reading the album's liner notes and learning more about the band. It adds another level to the listening experience, with the best vinyl packages giving you a peek into the lives and tastes of the artist. But above all else, it's important to me that I have tangible copies of my favorite albums because I'm the type of person to associate music with memories. And owning the music behind the memories is a way to help me keep those memories within arm's reach.

In May of 2017, I found myself in Los Angeles for a few days. While I was in town, I was determined to see a show somewhere. Sitting in my hotel after I arrived, I scoured the weekend lineups of all the local venues, looking for a band I knew. By the grace of God, DIIV was playing a show with the Paranoyds at the Regent Theater and I snagged a ticket.

The show was everything I could have hoped for. The Regent was packed, and DIIV put on an amazing show. They played a long set well into the night, full of jams off their first album Oshin and its follow-up Is the Is Are. Is the Is Are was released on February 5th the year before, and had been in my regular rotation ever since. In my mind, the album is as good of a sophomore record as they come, showcasing frontman Zachary Cole Smith's guitar genius across layers of reverb-laden melodies and echo-y drones. Nestled perfectly in the sonic scape are Smith's pained vocals, completing the transportation process to the world of his addiction.

Addiction. Drugs, money, power, whatever the source, addiction is rampant in modern society. Addiction also played a huge role in the creation of Is the Is Are. After a failed stint in rehab, Zachary Cole Smith was at rock bottom and felt close to death. As he told John Norris at Billboard

"There was just nothing. I tried so many times getting clean, and shit just kept getting exponentially worse. It just kept escalating and escalating, to where it almost like capped out, and there was no way out. So I thought, ‘I’m fucking dead. I want to make something."

This theme is prevalent across the album's lyrics, particularly in one of my favorite songs off of the record, Dopamine. Questions continuously answered by addicts as they return time and time again for their fix.

Would you give your 81st year

For a glimpse of heaven, now and here?

Would you give your 60th year

For a glimpse of heaven, now and here?

Would you give your 45th year

For a glimpse of heaven, now and here?

Would you give your 34th year

For a glimpse of heaven, now and here?

Thankfully, Zachary Cole Smith is now sober, with Is the Is Are standing as a symbol of what he's overcome. Is the is Are quickly became a favorite album for me after its release, and by the time of the show in Los Angeles, I had listened to the album cover to cover dozens of times. This love for the album made me determined not to leave the show without a souvenir that I could take home to Bowling Green. I got to the show as early as I could and waited in line so I could snag a copy of Is the Is Are on vinyl. Luckily for me, the merch table still had the limited deluxe edition for only $10 more than the standard pressing. The choice was obvious.

Back at the hotel room, I poured over the deluxe package's contents, becoming a bigger fan of the album with each passing second. It was a double LP on clear vinyl with pink, red, white, blue, and yellow marbling. The record sleeve came wrapped in a poster that doubled as an alternate cover, with another plastic sleeve for protection. Accompanying the records was a cool, abstract black and white mini-comic book. However, the best part of the package is the two lyric booklets featuring 23 pages of full-color oil paintings and drawings. They're the perfect thing to flip through as you blare the music across a pair of bookshelf speakers.

2017 was an amazing summer full of great music and concerts. I'm glad that I have a record in my collection to commemorate my trip and forever remind me of being young on the West Coast.

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