The War on Drugs "A Deeper Understanding"

Listening to The War on Drug’s latest release is akin to standing in the eye of a tornado. Sound cycles around you, spinning out layers of impeccable production, intricate melodies, and ephemeral imagery. Centered within it, you can feel the calm that each song rotates on. Even when a song’s emotional atmosphere is unsettled there is a sense of things following their natural course.

Adam Granduciel is a conscientious, meticulous songwriter who creates gorgeous musical landscapes, layer by precise layer. Synthesizer and drum machines are intricately paced. More organic instrumentation – guitar, organ, piano, harmonica – are place with great precision in the mélange of reverb. Grandeciel allows songs to spin into long, trance-like reveries that last from six to eleven minutes.  There’s a glossy touch of Roxy Music influence in several songs, and strains of Springsteen’s bittersweet ballads crawl around the edges. Guitar solos remind you of the best of classic rock’s more sensitive moments. The album runs heavy on rhythm created by the combination of drum programming and bass.

Granduciel’s vocals are often compared to Dylan, circa 1980s. It’s ragged and weary, but conveys warmth and a sense of quiet confidence. His phrasing is deliberate but wary, allowing for vulnerable moments of uncertain landings. That plays well on an album that is dedicated to the deep dive of self-revelation.  

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

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