Divisive politics and new journeys

Brooklyn shoegaze quartet Diiv's third album examines raw wounds and reflects on the fallout from past actions. Grammy-winning Chicago sextet Wilco's newest work celebrates the freedom to still have joy even though things are not going well.
Grammy-winning Chicago sextet Wilco's newest work celebrates the freedom to still have joy even though things are not going well.PHOTO: WILCO/INSTAGRAM
Brooklyn shoegaze quartet Diiv's third album examines raw wounds and reflects on the fallout from past actions. Grammy-winning Chicago sextet Wilco's newest work celebrates the freedom to still have joy even though things are not going well.
Brooklyn shoegaze quartet Diiv's third album examines raw wounds and reflects on the fallout from past actions.PHOTO: DIIV/INSTAGRAM

Wilco's Ode To Joy looks at fractures in society while Diiv's Deceiver gets personal

While it boasts a cheery title, American alt-country elders Wilco's 11th album Ode To Joy is a sobering look at divisive politics and fractures in society.

But as main man Jeff Tweedy explains, the Grammy-winning Chicago sextet's newest work celebrates the "freedom to still have joy even though things are going to s***".

Over minimalist, Velvet Underground-style drums, the multi-part vocals reminisce, "remember when wars would end?/Now when something's dead/We try to kill it again" in the dreamy Before Us.

Amid the doom and gloom, Tweedy finds hope. "Somehow we're bright leaves/You and I beneath the old snow," he croons in his trademark fragile voice as gentle keyboards and mellow guitars play in the background.

While the pace is frequently easygoing, tunes such as One And A Half Stars ("I'm worried about the way we're all living/And this is my love song") feature a slow build-up and electronic bleeps and glitches.

Love Is Everywhere (Beware), a campfire ditty with shimmery guitars, is a reminder to act with more love and less fear ("I'm frightened how/Love is here, beware"), while Hold Me Anyway lives up to the album title with its melodic, singalong chorus and optimistic vibes ("Are we all in love just because?/No, I think it's poetry and magic/Something too big to have a name").

While Wilco's creative stimulus is political, Brooklyn shoegaze quartet Diiv's third album is deeply personal.

  • INDIE ROCK/ ALTERNATIVE COUNTRY

  • ODE TO JOY

    Wilco

    dBpm Records

    4 Stars

  • INDIE ROCK/ SHOEGAZE

  • DECEIVER

    DIIV

    Captured Tracks

    4 Stars

Deceiver takes a leap into frontman Zachary Cole Smith's recurring battles with drug addiction, examining raw wounds and reflecting on the fallout from past actions.

A potent mix of shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine's wall-of-sound aesthetics and grunge icon Nirvana's heavy-yet-melodic dynamics, Smith has described the album-making process as "a new beginning", the first time he is sharing the creative duties with the rest of the band.

"Forget my youthful sins/Lay waste to my transgressions," he sings amid mournful, guitar squalls in slowburn track Lorelei.

Taker, with its layered singing harmonies, is his attempt at taking responsibility for his actions ("The path of wreckage that I cut/All in want of what?"), while Skin Game, inspired by his interactions with other patients in various rehabilitation facilities, questions if there are deeper underlying reasons to the cycle of addiction ("I took it as prescribed, vow do no harm, buy the cure/But first you'll buy the disease").

Over a droning, krautrock-like beat, Blankenship looks beyond Smith's personal pain and takes aim at climate-change deniers and greedy capitalists.

"Think of your sons and daughters/Laid in ashen water," he warns, as discordant riffs from twin guitars duel in the background.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Divisive politics and new journeys'. Print Edition | Subscribe