The War On Drugs new album Lost In The Dream was released a week ago, and in that week, I’ve spent a good deal of time with this piece of work from some of Philadelphia’s indie rock heroes. Lost In The Dream is the band’s third studio album, and follows their highly acclaimed 2011 release, Slave Ambient. Much like Slave Ambient, Lost In The Dream is full of The War On Drugs’ signature style of indie rock gems and expansive jams layered with dream-like tones.

war on drugs  Lost In The Dream review vinyl

[album revew]

While much of the album is mellow and unassuming, these are songs that will get into your head and live there. Songs that are never quite in your face, demanding your attention; but rather off to the side, doing their own thing. But, they’re done so well that you’ll want to listen closer… and when you do, you find solid, well thought out music that you can tell was assembled with great care.

During my week with Lost In The Dream, I listened two ways; both in my car jamming down the highway, and also quietly at home with the headphones on. This is the kind of album that can hold its own in both capacities. The album is catchy right from the start with its pounding drum beats, and layered synth melodies. Yet, with deeper listening you get a feel for the emotions behind the songs. For example, the first three song titles on the album are “Under the Pressure,” “Red Eyes,” and “Suffering” all of which suggest pain and heartache. At times, songs on the album reflect an introspective, slow bleeding out of one’s heart. Even with heaviness in its heart, Lost In The Dream never gets so depressing as to make it un-listenable.

[listen] the war on drugs – lost in the dream (shop excerpts)

“Under The Pressure” the album’s 9 minute opener, starts with frenetic drumming, builds into a horn-heavy jam and closes with 3 minutes worth of synth-y feedback; a wave of sound washing over you. Track #2, “Red Eyes” is the one that’s been getting a good amount of airplay on wxpn, and it should also go on your playlist for a long road trip. The pounding drum beat just feels right for getting on the road and putting some miles behind you. After the great rhythm of the first 2 tracks, “Suffering” turns a slow, languid corner into break up song territory. Granduciel sings / Why be here when we’re both gonna fake it, anyway? / set to a beautifully moody piano. The tempo picks back up again on “An Ocean Between The Waves.” I read that Granduciel started completely over on the recording of this song, just 2 weeks before it was due to the record company. He was disappointed in the way the song was coming along and decided to start over from scratch. It seems as though he made the right decision in doing that, as this song is a perfect combination of fuzzed out guitar and hazy synths over a relentless beat.

When listening to new music, I can’t help but to compare musicians to other musicians… I think everyone does that, right? I like to feel out the influences and make comparisons in what I’m hearing. With Lost In The Dream, I was getting many different artist influences on this album. I was hearing Bob Dylan in Adam Granduciel’s vocal stylings… Dire Straits in the twangy guitar and synths… Even 80’s new wave rockers The Cars were reflected in the drums. Track #6, “Eyes To The Wind” especially recalls Wilco for me, with just a hint of pedal steel to start it off. And on Track #8, “Burning” the synth progression has an overwhelming similarity to Rod Stewart’s song from 1981 “Young Turks.”

[watch] the war on drugs – “red eyes” (official video)


Track #7, “The Haunting Idle” is a gorgeous piece of wordless ambient feedback, turning down the tempo once again. The soaring strings and vibrating synths combine into a dream-like interlude. The last 2 songs, “Lost In The Dream” and “In Reverse” close out the album in much the same fashion as the rest of the album; mellow, thoughtful, and beautiful. Granduciel sings: Is there room in the dark / In between the changes / Like a life that’s driftin / In reverse I’m movin

Overall, Lost In The Dream has a nice balance of up-tempo catchy songs sprinkled with a few down-tempo, spaced-out jams. The album has a lot of depth to it, both lyrically and sonically. The blending of tones on this album is masterful. Granduciel creates such a beautiful soundscape with many gorgeous layers of sound. I’d say that Lost In The Dream is an excellent album, and could be one of the year’s best offerings.

[track list]

  1. Under The Pressure
  2. Red Eyes
  3. Suffering
  4. An Ocean In Between The Waves
  5. Disappearing
  6. Eyes To The Wind
  7. The Haunting Idle
  8. Burning
  9. Lost In The Dream
  10. In Reverse

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