Review: A Deeper Understanding by the War on Drugs

A Deeper Understanding by the War on DrugsOn their last album Lost in the Dream, the War on Drugs took a slightly different, and extremely rewarding, tactic: they soaked their songs in intricate, sprawling, lush arrangements, resulting in a beautiful record that at points literally hurts. A Deeper Understanding, the follow-up, has a name that suggests they’ve gotten the formula right, and will push on with it; the result is, again, extremely rewarding. Adam Granduciel’s music still has that potency, but it attacks in several other places now – perhaps it’s the influence of the record deal with Atlantic? It feels even more packed, which means there’s a lot more to unravel, and again, the whole not exactly meandering feel makes for a listen that literally hurts. But it’s less pangs of pain and more a longing. Ahh, this one’s magical, and yet it feels all so familiar. That perhaps is what captures A Deeper Understanding best: it feels like new, but it also feels familiar – and effortless. [NB] | 4/5

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earthings! 2014: My ten favorites of the year

earthings! 2014

Yep, another list of my ten favorite songs of the year. And it’s just that: my ten favorites of the year. While there is an attempt to weave what is clearly a very personal list into some narrative defining the past year, it will most likely not work as much as it should. That said, there were a lot of interesting songs in the past twelve months, and some of my favorite acts went back with some new bits, too. People went quiet; people went retro; people went organic. So there’s that. I don’t know about you, but this is my year in music, sorted in alphabetical order, although you’re likely to guess what I’m biased towards… that’s just the whole nature of it, yes? We’ll be on a two-week holiday break, and we’ll be back with new entries on 5 January. Hopefully. And now, the list. [NB]

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“Why be here when we both gonna fake it anyway?”

“Suffering” by the War on Drugs | I did promise to give a good listen to the War on Drugs’ latest album, Lost in the Dream, but apparently I also promised some sort of album review. “Some sort of”, because the album is four months old. But @terribletootsie (sorry, I still don’t know her name) is adamant about it, so, well, hope this works. So. Lost in the Dream. Most of the reviews I’ve seen mention the record’s take on 80s arena rock. I was going, “what exactly do they mean?” and then this song came on and it made so much sense. Yes, the album is about atmosphere, about the nice little subtle details that make this thing perfect with a good pair of earphones. But it gets there by taking that earnest 80s rock template – there’s a good load of Dire Straits on this song in particular – and sprinkling some pizzazz into it. An unexpected guitar riff over here, a nice flourish over there… it’s the sort of album that rewards repeated listening. And maybe a proper vinyl set-up. [NB]

“A dream like this gets wasted without you.”

“Under the Pressure” by The War on Drugs | I was not aware of the War on Drugs until this song came along. That said, this song has been on my radar for months. The Philadelphia band’s third album has been out for a few months now – and, of course, this song has been making the rounds of the radio stations I listen to. And yet it took a while for the song to creep up on me, and it didn’t stop until it finally struck me and I went, “oooh, I like this.” And apparently I’m not alone. A Facebook friend’s had the same experience, after perhaps weeks of it on high rotation on 6 Music. Another suddenly had a realization and is now going through the band’s previous releases. I’ve yet to do that – my Internet is painfully wonky lately – but if this song is any suggestion, it’s a creeper. It soars subtly, it sits quietly, and then it all clicks. I think I will like it. [NB]