Slave Ambient, the 2011 sophomore record by The War on Drugs pushed the group to new heights, and was marvelously well received, turning out to be exactly what a sophomore album should, despite several changes in band members. Lost in the Dream looks to be a further push down the line of progress for Adam Granduciel and company, the result of which is a cinematic, sweeping rock narrative, that will do more than make you jam along.
The album begins with “Under the Pressure,” a grower of an opener that chips its way, shyly at first, into your heart. At close to a nine minute long song, it comes across as a small folky rock star version of an opera, with its Dylanesque lyrical wanderings, sharp guitar meandering and ultimate reprise of the piano as well as Granduciel’s repetition of the title of the song. With each repeat, it seems like Granduciel tacks on more and more lyrics to come back around to the beginning of the circle, and you’ll follow him, knowing that it will come back again with a slightly different, more intense finish. It’s a sweepingly beautiful track, with nuances and special twists and turns to stumble into.
But if you thought the first song was a treat, just wait until you reach “Red Eyes,” the exciting track that immediately follows it. An immediately infectious guitar riff, accompanied by gracefully swelling synth and steadily trucking percussion kicks things off, and while you have the same feeling of build up as the first number, but somehow the stakes are higher, already intensified by the quickened percussion. Then the number explodes with a whoop into its chorus, and we see the band cut loose in a wildness that is warmly welcome—there’s no loss of control, but the song feels like a folk song that picked up ground with some electric guitar and ran with it. It has become one of my favorite tracks from the album, as well as from the band’s whole discography; for another particular gem, see “Burning.”
It is apparent now that when this band sets out to make an album, they don’t do so haphazardly or short-winded. As with the prior release, Lost in the Dream is sprawling, with songs that seem to stretch on into the horizon and gradually fade away into an ethereal dissipation. Each track is crafted artfully—a careful balance of delicate and harsh elements over sets of long tracks. Usually this is a plus for the band, adding to their grand style and overall transcendental transportation, but this album carries on superfluously somewhat towards its final stretch, ultimately taking you out of that atmosphere if you’re not completely on board.
This is my only complaint thus far in my listening experience with Lost in the Dream, and it is still a fairly small one. The War on Drugs have created yet another album of epic proportion for you to devour and spin all week, all year, and perhaps till the next album from these gentlemen. If you’re new to the group, this is a great place to start, but it seems that every work from this band is just that.