ALBUM REVIEW: The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream (2014)

waronBy Del Chaney

Out of depression comes a masterpiece – or in Adam Granduciel’s case it did anyway. After breaking away from Kurt Vile & The Violators in 2011 and the releasing his band The War On Drugs’ critically acclaimed second album, Slave Ambient that same year (followed by intensive touring throughout 2011 and 2012), Granduciel returned home to Philadelphia and found his world had changed drastically. He’d split from his girlfriend and found himself living in a city where, having been away for so long, he felt totally adrift and isolated. Granduciel started spiralling into emotional distress with physical manifestations of depression and paranoia. Out of that negativity, however, came one of 2014’s most remarkable albums.

Picking up from where Slave Ambient left off, Lost in the Dream, the band’s third full release, sounds as if Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had made a lost album with Mark Knopfler, The Waterboys, and Spacemen 3. It’s a Tom-Petty-meets-Sonic-Youth kind of sound. It’s not lyrically specific and there are no easily discernible narratives in it either, but there are dramatic stakes that come from someplace very real within Adam Granduciel. He’s figured out the perfect combination of words, music and ambiance to convey loss in musical form. This album is the next logical evolutionary step in The War On Drugs’ sound, taking classic rock and recreating it in Granduciel’s image. His lyrics are buried and impressionistic, referencing disappearing, darkness, and the inability to see.

Adam Granducial.

Adam Granduciel.

Lost in the Dream continues the artist’s love affair with synthesizers, but also sees him expanding his sonic palette. The opening track “Under the Pressure,” a sprawling road trip song, is followed by “Red Eyes” and its 80s New Wave keyboard approach. “Burning” makes use of “Born in the U.S.A.”-style synthesizers to dreamier effect, with reverb-drenched guitar sounds and hazy murmurs, reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, floating in and out of focus over them.

The album flows freely from track to track, leading you to the album’s centrepiece: the triumphant “Eyes to the Wind,” a song that lifts your spirits until they’re absolutely soaring. It’s an anthem that could possibly be the best song Granduciel has ever written. The final track, “In Reverse,” takes its time getting started, having more than earned the right to do so, but finishes the album off in style nonetheless.

In their continuing effort to recreate classic rock, The War On Drugs have created a classic album all their own. Lost in the Dream is an elegant, triumphant album that is full of reflection, with Granduciel striving to capture moments and memories. It is perhaps the pinnacle of the ambient Americana sound Granduciel and Kurt Vile invented with The War On Drugs’ debut, Wagonwheel Blues. Both the debut and Slave Ambient were great, but this latest album not only represents a maturing of that sound, but also a perfecting of it.

The War On Drugs seem to flourish under the guidance of the newly invigorated Adam Granduciel. By employing musicians to play the instruments instead of playing them all by himself,  Granduciel has tightened the band’s sound into a more coherent, dynamic, and focused entity. It is this new dynamic that will certainly hold the band in great stead as they move forward to the next stage in their exciting development.

DEL CHANEY is a self-confessed music freak and is never far away from a turntable. He divides his time between fronting popular electronic band Analogue Wave and uncovering and actively promoting artists from all over the globe in the shoegaze, dream pop, noise-rock, & post-rock genres with The Primal Music Blog and The Primal Radio Show. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Del is a keen vinyl collector, tattoo fan, & all round good guy.


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