The War on Drugs - Lost In a Dream

On their third LP, The War On Drugs navigate life's hurdles with zen-like ease.

Additional Info

9.1

ALBUM: Lost In a Dream

ARTIST: The War on Drugs

2014

Alternative

The third release from the increasingly confident Adam Granduciel and The War on Drugs, Lost In the Dream, plays like a poignant moment in time encapsulated in a hazy fog. A time of pure, almost ethereal, sadness, and vivid self-discovery, captured and magnified until the cracks start to show, and then honed in on even more until those very flaws become centerpieces for casual banter - no longer hidden and everything laid bare. The sounds that accompany Granduciel’s inner-vagabond flutter and sway as his soul drifts through the different planes of existence; as he gasps for air “under the pressure,” suffers all the “suffering,” and finally gets “lost in the dream.”

The instrumentation, as essential to this record’s cohesiveness as Granduciel’s own performance, morphs throughout the album from delicate and airy soundscapes to oddly anthemic rock tunes that revel in their own straightforwardness. Granduciel’s understated presence on a majority of the tracks adds to that sense of kitschy swagger, with lyrics swaying in and out of the negative space even when met with the shoegaze influenced energy of “Eyes to the Wind” or “Burning.” He maintains a disconnect that allows him to wander in and out of tracks in a breezy, effortless, manner. He croons about being “raised on a promise” on “Under the Pressure,” but the claustrophobic lyrics ultimately become more freeing than one could ever imagine when matched with the bands engaging rhythm and Granduciel’s own, inviting, vocals. This distinct aesthetic, where the most morose lines are chirped by a distant Granduciel and the most confident are whispered in a whimper, carries the album from it’s fantastic opener to it’s equally brilliant counterpart, the closer, “In Reverse.” Granduciel struggles with discovering the purpose of isolation, the necessity of “The Haunting Idle,” and by the time the album reaches its conclusion, The War On Drugs is more certain in its direction than ever before.

Even though many of Granduciel’s themes tackle the crushing insecurity that follows abandonment, Lost In the Dream is never overcome by its own vision. “Red Eyes” is deliberate in its optimism, even as the vocals warble in an incomprehensible echo, and when the vocals are finally at the forefront on the titular track, Granduciel shoulders the weight of the entire record without a single stumble. There was a time when Granduciel would’ve been okay with “Disappearing,” wondering if she would “wait for the one that disappears,” but there’s a keen sense of maturity and understanding by the time the record reaches its final act. When he realizes that “love is the key to the games we play, but don’t mind losing,” it’s with cautious, but equally confident, assurance. With this album, Granduciel forfeits any and all reservations, laying all his cards bare in a fantastically liberating manner. He manages to recount and revisit his lowest lows with the meditative urgency of a monk - almost as if he’s making silent vow to never fall victim to the same missteps again. Chronicling your own flaws and fears has never been so freeing.

"Why be here when we're both gonna fake it?"

1. Under the Pressure
Ethereal and serene, Granduciel's vocals linger in the airy aesthetic - reverberating on about "the pressure," but sounding joyously at peace. The vocals are wisps, lost in the hopeful, yet subdued, melody, and the themes of loneliness take on an immensely engaging and wholly unique form. By the time Granduciel lets out an impassioned "woo", despite all his suggested troubles, your own woes drift away under the waves of therapeutic chords.10.0
2. Red Eyes
As if constantly on the run, "Red Eyes" has a steady pace that Granduciel rides with effortless whimsy. As he croons on about how "they wont get lost inside again," his own vocals melds into the overwhelming atmosphere. Following the mismatched tone on the intro, this track adapts a more cautious optimism. The brilliant aesthetic is never better then when the mixing echoes and sways the lyrics into the blanket of cords, so that lines such as "you're all I've got to wait/you're running in the dark when I come to my sense," ring true even when they are barely decipherable.9.5
3. Suffering
As understated as some of the cords, Granduciel's own vocals quiver with a sympathetic swagger. The lines are rationed and the vacant space often overwhelms the singing itself, but in that free-form lies the band’s greatest strength. "I can go back on the street," Granduciel threatens - "why be here when we're both gonna fake it?" It's a poignant self-discovery, and less of an accusation. Even the bravado in "means I can be bigger," is a bit too somber to suggest anything grave. There's just some pointless "suffering" left to share together.9.0
4. An Ocean In Between the Waves
Granduciel's abstract storytelling is at least partially rooted in a very real sense of abandonment, even if his candor and swagger often contrast with his lyrics. He's saddest when singing the happiest asides and full of passion when at his loneliest. There's a "haze right between the trees," and he's "at the dark and hero side," wondering if he can "be more just a fool." Regardless, "a traveling man" such as him has no time for hesitation - he's "bet against the company, again." All he hopes for now is to "see you in the outline," of the "moonlight." All he wishes is that "it never gets too dark to find anybody at anytime."9.5
5. Disappearing
The subtle control of the pace keeps the album at a slow burn but allows for that flame to gather with increasing enthusiasm. "Disappearing," with its lackadaisical "ya ya ya," and ghostly whispers, floats on as a bridge between the album's more upbeat affairs. The riffs punctuate the meditative drive of the song, but, ultimately, this track plays off its title as it deliberately marches into the backdrop.8.5
6. Eyes to the Wind
Granduciel is at once passive in his acceptance of the inevitable, and optimistically defiant in letting it hinder his journey. The instrumentation is cheerful and giddy in a country-swing as it plays him out -the soundtrack to his travels. His storytelling, matched with his vocal quirks, creates a fleeting euphoria in its rumination. "Is this the way I'll be denied, again," Granduciel questions - "I'll set my eyes to the wind, but it won't be easy...to leave it all again."8.5
7. The Haunting Idle
This instrumental, embodying the essence of Granduciel’s themes and cadence, is simultaneously menacing in its slow crawl, and triumphant in the poignant notes tgat punctuating the idleness. It's a seamless bridge between two of the albums more energetic tracks, and serves as a lull to add perspective to the highs.8.0
8. Burning
By the time the declarative "dreaming," is sing aloud, we're already fully lost in the weirdly anthemic aesthetic. Joyous in the keyboard-driven swagger and rebellious with Granduciel’s, almost shrieked, adlibs, "Burning" is a steady sway of energy and subdued enthusiasm. Granduciel always seems to be a bit too reserved, holding a bit too much back, but it ultimately ends up playing into the tracks strengths. An engaging view into the cautious optimism born out of a drawn-out existence.8.5
9. Lost in a Dream
"You'd risk it all for a dream," reflects Granduciel, his presence more apparent than ever before. Declarative over an airy and fluttering melody, he searches blindly for "the key" - determined to break out of the dream. There's comfort in the uncertainty, in risking "it all for a memory," and a release in laying all the cards bare. The "sadness it was in," is there, sure, but "you don’t miss it, man" - "it's living under your skin." The troubles that threaten to tear through your existence are held at bay by the simple revelation that: "love's the key to the games that we play - but don't mind losing."9.0
10. In Reverse
Everything about Granduciel’s understated, melancholy, approach to his monumental revelations is exemplified in an unabashed fashion on this closer. The lush aesthetic is somber before it gains a rhythmic bounce and contrasts beautifully with Granduciel's contemplation. "I don't mind you disappearing," he realizes, "because I know you can be found." And from that certainty, he allows waves of acceptance and understanding to wash away his woes, and we are finally privy to why he maintains such a meditative cadence throughout the entire record. It's not clear whether or not he's found the answers he's been looking for, but there's a certain assurance in recognizing that "I'll be here or I'll fade away/never cared about moving/never cared about now." As long as the "grand parade" keeps on marching, so do we - even if you feel "a light that's drifting" or feel as if you're moving "in reverse."10.0
Narsimha Chintaluri is a creative writer currently satiating his need to write by venting about music, tv and film on any given platform.



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