The War on Drugs Turns Alienation and Isolation Into Eloquent and Eerie Indie Rock
Philadelphia's The War on Drugs began as the home-studio project of Adam Granduciel - an unrepentant tinkerer and gearhead whose deeply layered songs put a new spin on classic rock.
Dusdin Condren Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs.
After the breakthrough success of the expertly crafted Slave Ambient, Granduciel's project became more of a live band, a move that guided the next studio project. For his part, Granduciel turned the years of touring and self-reflection on making music for a living into a batch of more personal, sharply focused songs.
It's both aspects that make Lost In The Dream an early contender for album of the year. Led by the pulsating "Red Eyes" and the swirling, haunting "Eyes to the Wind," the album has garnered rave reviews, including a Best New Music tag from Pitchfork.
"As a songwriter, I wanted to put more of myself into it, to step out a bit more and to write songs and music I felt very connected to and put the way I was feeling down," says Granduciel in a phone interview from a tour stop in Denver. "It wasn't a conscious decision to write about anything in particular, but I was wrestling with some emotions that were new to me and I couldn't escape. I was all consumed with the songs and my relationship to the songs and what I wanted to talk about."
The War on Drugs reveals plenty of reverence for Dylan, Petty and Springsteen, but that forceful rock 'n' roll is seamlessly layered on top of an entirely different sonic world of layered loops, ambient tones and swirling textures. The songs began in the summer of 2012, built up from early recordings, sometimes just snippets, Granduciel did at his home in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood.
Even as he built the songs up from those foundations, altering things along the way, following unexpected directions, adding and subtracting instruments and parts, Granduciel kept those first recordings.
"I really tried to let those early moments of inspiration exist instead just of going into the studio for with two weeks with the band," Granduciel says. "You don't have any foresight then. For me foresight in the way I record is really important."
Lyrically, themes of isolation, alienation and self-doubt run through the album, captured "Eyes to the Wind" with an eloquent and eerie sharpness: "There's just a stranger living in me."
"Lyrically I was just going with what was close to me at the time, and just living in the moment and writing vocals on the spot, stepping up to the mic with one verse out of four and writing in that moment what I was feeling and hearing the song, figuring out what it sounded like to me," Granduciel says.
"There were a lot of changes in my life, spending a lot of time traveling and also a lot of time alone. It's an ongoing battle with the self. Some people are more prone to tapping into it, but I caught really up in these existential kinds of questions about my life and my purpose and what music meant to me and what I wanted to write about and what I wanted to contribute to society and my fans. Was I going to step it up?"