This Philly indie rock, ambient, bordering–on–Americana band fronted by Adam Granduciel dropped what was a near unanimously–acclaimed “masterpiece” of an album, Lost in the Dream, back in the summer of 2014. Now on to their fourth album, the band’s grown in fame, fans (think the likes of me, my mom, Larry Fink—CEO of BlackRock for all you non–Whartonites, The New Yorker, and Jimmy Kimmel) and, most notably, talent. Even Jimmy Iovine, of Beats and The Defiant Ones fame, said that the War on Drugs should be “gigantic". What once was a Bob Dylan–esque rock group has now transformed into a larger–than–life ambient, ethereal and guitar–infused aural experience, that also may or may not be changing the tide of rock music as we know it. That distinct sound surfaced in Lost in the Dream, only to be expanded and perfected in A Deeper Understanding.
Even on your first listen, you’ll notice that every track is produced to perfection, down to the fading of the synths, the ever–so–subtle piano keys, the nostalgia–inducing harmonica cameos, and the cathartic Woo!s (just listen, you’ll see what I mean). Better yet, each track is upwards of 5 minutes, so the song doesn’t really end unless you want it to. You can practically hear the labour behind every millisecond, so exacting that it’s not far off to imagine that the production of every song easily occupied the time it takes to produce your average album.
And it doesn’t stop there. You might not notice the airy vocals at first listen, but as the album envelops you, their softness seeps into your mind and elevates you elsewhere, bringing you to your highs, your lows and drawing out your deepest emotions. It’s as if Adam Granduciel wrote an album about your very own life. The coolest part? That the album is equal parts elation and sorrow. And it’s not the songs that captain your feelings—your emotions harness the beauty of this singular art form to create your own storyline.
If we’re being honest, every single song is incredible. Except maybe 'Up All Night'. That one’s just good. Get listening and read on.
“Up All Night”
The song that makes you feel like you’re stalling in time, stuck on a thought, reliving a moment, trying to escape—like you're up all night, if you will.
This song’s about pain, no doubt, but it’s also about the uphill battle, resilience, and about knowing yourself throughout. "I resist what I cannot change / I wanna find what can’t be found” are the words I’m keeping close. And the piano here is pure magic. Who even does that anymore?
This song’s uncharacteristically upbeat, departing from the signature slow–burn of the War on Drugs. Instead, it'll transport you to a road trip you could have sworn you’ve taken, driving down an unnamed highway without a cloud in sight, and a Bob Dylan/Springstein–esque feeling.
This song is a slow–burner if we’ve ever heard one. You’ll lose yourself in guitar solos that you didn’t know could be produced. At least I didn’t. This one’s also particularly good for reminiscing and reflecting.
“Nothing to Find”
The song that’ll have you head–bobbing, stupid–smiling, and daydreaming all at once.
Unexpectedly catchy. But slow. Confusing.
“Thinking of a Place”
11 minutes about reminiscing about a person, a place, a perfect moment that you’ll genuinely never want to let go. If you can’t handle the buildup, speed up to 6:37 and listen to arguably the best few seconds of music ever produced—lyrics, guitar and otherwise.
Easily the most monumental song on the album. "Is this life and we’re just living it?” is a very valid question. Not entirely sure what Granduciel’s getting at, but as long as this song’s a part of mine, it’s cool with me.
“You Don’t Have To Go”
If there’s one thing the War on Drugs has mastered, it’s easily the album closer. "In Reverse" of Lost in the Dream is markedly optimistic in concluding what was an album characterized by depression, sorrow, loneliness that it catches you by surprise—and 'You Don’t Have To Go' is no different. The buildup on this one is not to be missed.