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A Look Back into the Brutal Confessions of DIIV’s “Horsehead” 

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Shoegaze band DIIV (pronounced “dive”), offered a harrowing look into addiction with their third full-length album, “Deceiver” released in October of 2019. The opening track, “Horsehead,” a nod to front man Zachary Cole Smith’s own drug abuse.

Originally formed in Brooklyn in 2011, DIIV have since found indie success, making a name for themselves as dream-pop rockers. Their first two LPs “Oshin” and “Is the Is Are” featured much of the same psychedelic surf-rock qualities found on “Deceiver”. While Smith’s lyrics have always had an autobiographical spin, “Deceiver,” and “Horsehead” specifically, saw the band diving even further into intimate songwriting.

The title “Horsehead” came to Smith while looking at a Horsehead Nebula poster he had in his bedroom. He also wanted to use the title for its double meaning, ‘horse’ often being used as drug slang. This track utilizes DIIV’s familiar indie rock style, wearing their shoegaze influence on their sleeves as always. In the verses, Smith’s voice has the hushed Bilinda Butcher quality familiar to shoegaze lovers. In the chorus, the band’s instruments rush through the mix.

Right off the cuff, DIIV comes out swinging. The lyrics make no bones about the song’s dark material. Light, jangly guitars meander between each chorus, carrying the listener through the song’s dream-like structure. The second verse shows the narrator at his lowest. Smith sings, “I sat in a slump, so my shadow sat slumped too. Then I laid among the rocks and stones. Fuck it all.” Distorted guitars play the song out, featuring some loud feedback and angelically harmonized vocals, then ends abruptly.

In an interview with Saved by Old Times in 2019, Smith had this to say about his vulnerable lyrics, “In the lead up to this record I had to spend a lot of time working on myself, examining my own actions etcetera.” He went on to say, “So this record feels honest, and the last record, maybe it’s honest because everything’s true, but it wasn’t actual self-examination.”

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