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Drake performing at the O2 Arena in east London, UK, March 24, 2014. Photo by Matt Crossick/PA Photos/ABACAPRESS.COM
Drake performing at the O2 Arena in east London, UK, March 24, 2014. Photo by Matt Crossick/PA Photos/ABACAPRESS.COM

Listen Up: Guitar music stays relevant in this week’s essential listens

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I actually drove around this week with the windows down and music up, which is something I usually can’t say in February. I think Van Morrison was on the radio, maybe a little “Brown-Eyed Girl” to make it feel even more like spring. Then I found myself inside studying and it felt more like spring than ever.

This is what else I listened to.

“Is the Is Are” by DIIV

DIIV is fronted by Zachary Cole Smith, one of the few rock star-ish figures in indie rock. He has been far more polarizing than almost anyone in this kind of faceless genre. It might be because of his eccentricities, which mostly consist of his penchant for very large clothes, his relationship with singer Sky Ferreira, his drug problem and his fascination with Kurt Cobain.

But it is probably, originally, because his band is really good.

DIIV’s first album came out in 2012 when a bunch of indie bands, like Japandroids and Metz, were plugging in and playing loud and fast. DIIV played with guitars, but clean ones that were often drenched in effects. Its members played long instrumentals and kept vocals to a minimum.

Four years later, DIIV is just as captivating. This album, the band’s second, has a bit of a heavier context than its debut. Smith and Ferreira were arrested in 2013 after they were found with heroin and ecstasy. The drugs were Smith’s, and the theme of use and/or abuse hovers over “Is the Is Are.”

This influence is more obvious in some places than others. “Dopamine” is about as clear as possible with hooks like “Got so high I finally felt like myself.” The lyrics are mostly indecipherable, distorted and echoing under the guitars.

The instrumentals and melody, though, are as good as ever, each song taking the same four or five instruments and going somewhere new. Ferreira taking guest vocals on “Blue Boredom” is another highlight, and “Bent (Roi’s Song)” features more prominent Smith vocals than any other track.

This record could be called trance-inducing. It’s easy to get lost in the swirls of guitars. It can be heavy and light, but is mostly an intense, complicated and great album.

“Summer Sixteen” by Drake

Drake fans have not had the chance to get impatient during the wait between albums. Drake has been probably the biggest male musician since 2013’s “Nothing was the Same,” putting out singles that became huge and doing projects both as a solo artist and as a collaborator with Future.

So the drought hasn’t been insufferable, but that doesn’t make the end of it any less sweet. “Summer Sixteen” is the first single from “Views from the Six,” now slated for an April release. It is a solid song, with a strong beat, beat-switch and Drake’s usual lighthearted barbs at a couple people about as relevant as him: President Barack Obama and Kanye West.

The Drake hype will only keep going up until April.

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