Album Review: The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[Atlantic; 2017]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “Pain”, “The Strangest Thing”, “You Don’t Have To Go”

Three years after the release of their iconic third album, Lost in the Dream, The War On Drugs brought significantly more to the table with A Deeper Understanding. The album takes listeners on an emotional journey through astonishing vocals, magical and soothing guitar riffs and a constantly sparkling tone. Frontman Adam Granduciel especially highlights the band’s talent with a voice comparable to the likes of Bob Dylan, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.

The tone of the album is set with “Up All Night”, which draws in listeners with a steady beat comprised of subtle electronics followed by Granduciel’s mystifying voice. As it progresses, the beat is supplemented by sweet, soft guitar riffs that make the song feel complete. Altogether, “Up All Night” is perfect background noise for a long trip in the car with friends.

“The Strangest Thing” shifts the album into a different light. While The War On Drugs typically writes more upbeat-sounding pieces, this is a song capable of moving one to tears. It begins slow, dark and almost melancholy, but as the almost seven-minute-long song progresses, beautiful, rough and heavy guitar riffs supplemented by organs and synths grab a hold of the listener’s heart and refuse to let go. The piece is an explosive listening experience that places one at the center of a grandiose firework show on the Fourth of July.

The grand finale of the album is “You Don’t Have To Go”, a piece that sounds like the epilogue from your favorite literature. Sentimental piano and steady-yet-powerful guitar riffs fill the glamorously-simple ballad. The song perfectly sums the tone of A Deeper Understanding into a seven-minute-long episode that you don’t want to end.

A Deeper Understanding weighs in at a short ten songs, yet each song (typically at least six minutes long) carries enough emotional weight to last a lifetime. This album is purely a work of art and deserves as much praise as one can give. The War On Drugs truly outdid themselves, as the only fault of this album was that it just wasn’t long enough.

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