The War On Drugs return with their masterful A Deeper Understanding, released on August 25. The band, fronted by Adam Granduciel, have found a wonderful place to draw inspiration from, contrasting their signature dreamy space rock with a little more upbeat accessibility.
2011’s Slave Ambient cemented The War On Drugs in the ranks among some of the top bands to keep an eye on this decade. The release of Lost In A Dream in 2014 found the band truly honing in on their style, laying a foggy canvas down for the listener to paint on. A Deeper Understanding sounds like that river in the back of your mind that flows ever onward into the unknown. Often contrasting mellow lounge drone and gritty guitars drenched in reverb, the tracks linger on steady and long, in fact only one song is less than five minutes long.
The opening track “Up All Night” is an upbeat repetitive tune, the music builds slowly hugging the lyrics, eventually making way for a fuzzy guitar interlude that borders on noisy but doesn’t quite feedback. “Pain” follows with cryptic yet familiar lyrics. Another upbeat track, “Holding On”, the listener sees a pattern on the album as it alternates quick tempo pop infused songs and the slow dreamscapes the band does so well. The shortest track, “Knocked Down” clocks in at four minutes of wonderfully used space and an unforgettable chorus. A Deeper Understanding peaks with the eleven minute surf western song “Thinking Of A Place”. The lyrics paint beautiful scenes, beautiful memories, that could belong to anyone. The album continues with its intricacies and meticulous arrangements, finishing with the hopeful “You Don’t Have To Go”
A Deeper Understanding leaves the listener wondering why The War On Drugs are not ten times as successful as they are. Their distinct sound that is just as familiar as it is mysterious. The songs are balanced perfectly with accessibility for the new listener and darkened corners yet unexplored for the long time fan. This recipe makes for a comfortable listening experience but leaves plenty of room for the imagination to wander, and perhaps discover a deeper understanding.