Artist: The War on Drugs
Details: 12 tracks; 47 minutes
Who’s Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation
This one was my pick, and I will put it out there that, until picking it, I had never heard of the band, War on Drugs. I came to it because the album that I considered picking – Kurt Vile’s “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” – led me to this. Adam Granduciel – the leader of War on Drugs – plays with Kurt Vile a lot. Because this one was brand new to me, I decided to take a chance.
Dan has written what he thinks about this over on Gone Mild, and once again, our opinions are pretty similar.
Think Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Springsteen, Dire Straits all mashed up and you will get an idea as to where this one fits. Granduciel provides a vocal style that makes me think of the word “languid.” When you listen, it is almost as if the vocal is just one of many layers of the song. It doesn’t feel like it is meant to lead or drive the song. He drags the end of each line and blends it into the next. This is hard to explain, but it all sounds so easy and relaxed, but if you listen more closely, it is so complicated.
I watched a couple interviews with Adam. Looks wise, he has some Jeff Tweedy going on. He speaks a great deal about the process of the music on this album and how things really did come together in pieces. He worked on it for over three years in his home studio. In one interview he says that sometimes they just put lyrics in as place holders, but then they kept them. At the same time, however, he doesn’t suggest that the lyrics are unimportant. There is a respect for the whole.
I usually can’t listen to music and read, or sleep, or write – but I can with this album. As its title suggests, it is ambient. You don’t pay attention to it to a level that distracts. It surrounds you. It blends in. It is atmospheric.
It is hard to write about particular songs or particular lyrics. The last song of the album “Black Water Falls” is probably the one that I have concentrated the most on. It is still, however, image filled and dreamy.
For the rest of the songs, even as I try to listen for the lyrics, they would either be hard to catch, or my mind would wander in the midst. This sounds critical, but it really is not. There is something soothing and peaceful about this. I had to watch on my Itunes to confirm that there are purely instrumental tracks. Four of the twelve tracks, to be exact. Some are as long as three minutes. But they then just blend seamlessly into the next track where there is a vocal. The instrumentals use synthesizers and sounds that pulse and wave.
There is nothing harsh here. It is an album that seems more like a piece of art – a composition.
Next Up: Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes