The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream Review (4 Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, four takes on Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs.
Atom Robinson, @atomrobinson
Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: The War On Drugs is the coolest band name in the game right now. It’s so good and I wish I would’ve thought of it.
Okay, I’ll admit that their latest album (“Lost in the Dream”) took a couple listens to get its claws in me. The whole set kinda evokes an 80’s movie soundtrack. For example, “Disappearing,” a track from the middle of the album, sounds like it would be the background music to a love scene in Top Gun. When it finishes, you kinda expect a Kenny Loggins track to come on next. I mean that in a good way.
Other tracks put out a Tom Petty vibe. I expected the opening of “An Ocean In Between the Waves” to blossom into “Running Down a Dream,” and I bet the video probably has an Alice in Wonderland theme to it, but The War on Drugs captures the essence of that era of rock and channels it into a solid album.
There are times when the swelling synths and chorusy guitars start to get under your skin – they’re vibey and atmospheric while I feel like the album aspires to be more rock and roll. A couple of tracks linger a few minutes too long, but this album’s best, “Red Eyes,” is a strong rock song, featuring Granduciel’s raspy vocals.
Overall, this album drives along really, really well. Drums and slinky bass lines power songs forward. Guitar solos spiral and lift; vocal yearn and stretch. A good album for a solo drive on two lane blacktop highways, and a quality effort from The War on Drugs.
Ali (Background Noise Crew, Egypto Knuckles)
Following up an album as lauded and acclaimed as Slave Ambient, the sophomore album from The War on Drugs, might seem like a tall order at first. Contributions from Kurt Vile and Mike Zanghi? Ending up on several year end best of lists? So many things. On Lost In The Dream however, they harness whatever negative energy and channel it into tunes that are heavy on the running time and lush on the arrangements, such as on “An Ocean In Between The Waves,” or the bluesy “Suffering.” Elsewhere on the record you have the melancholy vibes on “The Haunting Idle,” one of the album’s many highlights. Seems like The War On Drugs definitely have a great grasp on making something worthwhile, atmospheric, and genuine, and Lost In The Dream is that album.
Kurt Vile has always been an artist that I feel like, on paper, I shouldn’t be that into (just based on my personal tastes) however in reality he always manages to surprise me by how much I like his music. With the War on Drugs I encounter a similar scenario – on paper the band’s music reminds me a great deal of a genre I am not crazy about: the music I grew up hearing in the eighties because my parents listened to it – Petty, Traveling Wilbury’s, post-Blood on the Tracks Dylan, etc. I don’t have anything against the sound – It’s just not something I go out of my way to listen to any more. I feel like I would go out of my way to hear The War on drugs though – at least Lost in the Dream for sure. I haven’t spent much time with it yet but my first impression is that it’s a solid record. That doesn’t tell you much but maybe ask me again at the end of the year when the record has had time to sink in.
Like their former band mate Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs make music that ventures towards the druggy, wistful side of Americana. When it works, as has been the case more often than not with both, it creates a sound that is gigantic and timeless. When it doesn’t work, well, it is cheesy as hell. Like their last release, the outstanding Slave Ambient, The War on Drugs fall squarely in the former descriptor and have created an album that almost lives up to the breathless buzz surrounding it. As on their previous releases, the band are not afraid to layer on effects or entangle themselves in a soaring melody or two. The former keeps the latter from sounding overblown, and frontman Adam Granduciel is adept at making the kind of songs that sound familiar and warm on fist listen, but have expansive reach that rolls out on subsequent spins. This is an album that starts out with an amazing 1-2 punch of “Under Pressure” & “Red Eyes” yet doesn’t seem to lose momentum throughout its 10 song lifespan. Ultimately, Lost in the Dream is like a that jean jacket you see that actually looks cool on someone. It is build with the same fabric and style as similar products that, in lesser hands, are rightfully derided as cheesy and out of date, but in the hands of the right perso n has the capacity to bring the house down.