Frog in Boiling Water

It’s been five years since DIIV’s last album—clearly, there has been some lingering tension. To set the table: After lead singer Zachary Cole Smith was arrested in 2013 for heroin possession preempting his first trip to rehab and DIIV’s former bassist Devin Ruben Perez was kicked out of the band for making racist comments on 4chan, DIIV “essentially broke up” in 2016. Then, after another stint in rehab, Smith and the band pulled it together for their last album, 2019’s Deceiver, but by this point, frustration was embedded in their dynamic.

Press materials are pointedly vague about how the band worked through “suspicions and resentments” before completing Frog in Boiling Water, their sour new album coping with capitalism. Its chiffon layers of reverb wrap around the guitars like a burial cloth, and Smith accepts the boat ride down to purgatory in distant vocals. “Will you please leave me alone,” he implores on “Reflected,” floating through lost souls with self-possession. He’s gotten used to the dark.

Other DIIV albums are more concerned with inward darkness, the addiction and depression that dot the band’s history. But Frog acknowledges that these illnesses feed off of and into an already miserable society. “Systems fail and empires fall,” Smith shrugs under raindrops of guitar on “Fender on the Freeway,” sounding jaded and overstimulated. While Frog‘s vocal melodies are often simple, with nursery-rhyme lightness, tuning into their lyrics make them seem more like sugar-coated pills. They establish Smith as both an objector of the failing system and another one of its many idle subjects, free-floating in the rush of disappointment. The weightless “Frog In Boiling Water” blames technology for this half-hearted complacency, smothering disappointment in reverb the way some people replace unpleasant sensations with posting online.

Leading up to Frog’s release, DIIV published an unhinged, endless scroll, Web 1.0 site called Its content informs visitors that “we are all greasing [the capitalist machine] with our blood and sweat.” Under this text, a naked fairy GIF waggles blue wings, a list combines “the smokestacks, the camps, the landfills, the DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES,” and there’s a PNG of John Hancock’s signature. It goes on and on like this, like the ramblings of a computer-savvy serial killer in the ’90s. The site also has a song on autoplay, “Soul-net,” which appears on Frog as the mirage of a star, a glimmer of irony: “I’m not afraid,” Smith affirms, “I love my pain.”

You could glean some of the band’s anxious hysteria out of this. They revel in images and ideas usually associated with suspicious Facebook grandmas worried about “seed oils.” Like an anonymous account might say alongside an image of lizard Joe Biden, Smith is disturbed by how “the rotating villains profit off suffering.” He sneers at a good citizen’s purpose, to be “fodder for the army op.” But he also sings with soft insistence, and his restraint is convincing. Everyone has a good reason to feel as fractured as Frog sounds. Its guitar-led production makes sense of the stress by dumping it into pressure-cooker whining.

Though, more often, the guitars would rather loaf in the mud. The band takes pleasure in simple melodies with muscle, like on the melancholy “In Amber.” There, the rhythm guitar bounces like a nervous leg until the lead guitar wrests the song open. DIIV repeatedly employ this tactic throughout the album, presenting each song like a cold tomb to be set on fire, typically, by a one-note guitar solo you can feel drilling into your stomach. It’s thrilling. “Little Birds” is like a dry lightning field, empty aside from the occasional crackle of distortion. But its lead guitar always returns to the same note, filling the space with an insistent echo. These repetitive moments come on like a ticking clock, and Frog in Boiling Water operates with a prophetic understanding that time has already run out.

All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Diiv: Frog in Boiling Water