A Deeper Understanding by The War on DrugsRelease date: August 25, 2017
Label: Atlantic Records
It seems every so often, a band whose been working hard and producing music of a strong calibre will find themselves suddenly swarmed with overwhelming praise without warning or expectation. Whilst The War on Drugs have been operating since around 2007, it was the release of their 2014 album Lost in the Dream that found them overwhelming success. It was hard to ignore the emotional resonance found within the tracks, borne from lead-singer Adam Granduciel’s experiences of loneliness and depression. With this newfound exposure, the release of a follow-up album brings with it an anticipation to all the new fans, whether or not this breakthrough album was a one-trick pony, or the start of something great.
The band’s latest album A Deeper Understanding mostly follows on from what was starting to be established on the preceding album. Once again we’ve been presented with a very emotionally charged yet completely euphoric album experience that delves deep into Granduciel’s own personal experiences and understanding of those experiences. There is such a feeling of elation that one experiences when listening to the album, that it becomes easy to understand how and why the band became so popular following the release of their preceding album. It’s hard not to be won over with how wonderful everything sound on this record, from the instrumentation of each track (much of which follows on from the previous record, with a few new ideas here and there) to the vocal performances, which feel incredibly emotive.
When I think of the band and their music, something that always stands out in my head is the band’s commercial appeal. It’s arguable that certain purists find that once something gets too popular, that their music no longer has the same level of impact as it once did, or that there’s no genuine emotion to be found and it’s all manipulative. The idea baffles me, as something that is an emotional and artistic expression of something that is very difficult to understand in oneself can have such an impact regardless if it’s come from something commercially viable or something incredibly niche. Even cynics of the music industry such as myself can’t helped but be completely swayed and sucked in by something so beautifully expressive, and when something does come along and manage just that in such an effortless way, it becomes quite an intense experience.
It feels that The War on Drugs have successfully followed up their breakthrough album with one of at least equal calibre, with A Deeper Understanding coming across as an exhilarating and wonderful album experience, one that balances euphoria with melancholy, a fevered and hurried pace with a slow moving shuffle. There’s a wonderful movement of emotions as the album effortlessly progresses along its journey, pulling us as listeners into the whirlpool of emotion. One has to allow themselves to be surrendered to the experience being offered, which perhaps can be difficult with a cynical mindset, though if one allows oneself, they can find themselves experiencing a wonderful album in all its mighty.