The War on Drugs

Lost in the Dream

Written by: BV on 11/03/2014 11:07:43

Following the outing of the ”Red Eyes” single in late 2013, The War on Drugs made a promise inherent in the soundscape – this will, without a doubt, be a vast improvement on the already accomplished ”Slave Ambient” sound. Having recorded a unique sort of trance-inducing Americana-esque songs since 2005, Adam Granduciel, the man behind The War on Drugs, seems to be developing his knack for Sonic Youth meets Tom Petty, sprinkled with Bruce Springsteen-inspired songwriting at a rather rapid pace – with each album surpassing the former, reaching a temporary peak with the aforementioned “Slave Ambient”. That album was not without its kinks, however, so the question remains; has Granduciel really managed to improve further?

“Red Eyes” certainly hinted in that direction when the track first hit the devoted horde of Granduciel fans – fueled by a synth-laden, almost ambient soundscape set at a relatively upbeat pace, the track is indeed a pivotal example of the very best sides of Granduciel’s songwriting. – Especially when you take the exceptional guitar-playing and the airy, perfectly aligned mix of the track into consideration. Granduciel’s recording approach has, quite noticeably, developed as well. Having initially been doing all basic tracks himself and tinkering with the mix until it met his, allegedly perfectionistic, standard on prior albums, he has ‘finally’ taken a step into the next wild frontier – incorporating an actual band in the recordings, in the form of Dave Hartley (bass) and Robbie Bennett (keys). Bennett’s presence is especially notable as Granduciel has always been a user of piano sounds on his albums, albeit they were limited to a rather simplistic, chord-based approach. However, as it can be heard on “Red Eyes”, “Eyes to the Wind” and “Under the Pressure”, the playful fills, grandiose synth parts and driving piano have become nothing less than dominant driving forces of Granduciel’s spacious, ambient Americana soundscape.

Although the synths have become one of the dominant driving forces of the soundscape, one must not neglect the superb guitar-playing which Granduciel displays on this record. At times ambient, yet utterly aggressive for the most part, it provides the natural counterpart to the dominance of the synths – essentially creating a soundscape wherein modern whims and grandiose sounds meet the tangible, earthbound qualities of a deliciously gritty guitar – however echo and phaser-laden it may be. What is, perhaps, most strange about an album which seeks to invoke a sense of transcendence – starting early with the title, is the incorporation of the driving drum-machine beats. They naturally serve the purpose of keeping the whole thing together, yet somehow they also provide the ethereal, floating soundscape with a distinctly earth-binding atmosphere that keeps the spacious explorations grounded at a more accessible level. Likewise, the lyrics have a universally relevant ring to them, rather than exploring the boundaries of nonsensical stoner lyrics – after all, who can’t relate to a borderline corny lyric along the lines of; "We're livin' in the moment, losing our grasp, making it last" from the haunting album closer “In Reverse”.

In essence, the ongoing war on drugs might very well be failing but Adam Granduciel’s War on Drugs is rapidly approaching its creative peak with an album that just might be the defining piece of work in a, hopefully, ever-evolving discography.


Download: Red Eyes, In Reverse, Eyes to the Wind, Under the Pressure
For the fans of: Kurt Vile, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.03.2014
Secretly Canadian

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