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Album review: The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Adam Granduciel epitomizes introversion. He prefers to work alone, not only mixing and producing his own albums, but performing nearly every instrument during the recording process as well. After all the success achieved as The War On Drugs, or even backing his long-time buddy Kurt Vile and the Violators, Granduciel still works through the same crippling anxiety and occasional bouts of depression that he has throughout his entire life. Lost in the Dream found the seemingly aloof Granduciel personifying his insecurities, battling through them for us all to hear, and humanizing himself in the process. In his latest release under the moniker The War On Drugs, we find a man who has not ridded himself of diffidence. Rather, Granduciel has embraced it, offering a sanctuary of sound for listeners to reset themselves in A Deeper Understanding. The opening anthem, “Up All Night,” exemplifies his new mindset as he sings over classic synth and an anthem-like tempo, “I’ve been through it/I always have paranoia/But it would not last/Held it up and showed the world/Hold it up into the light/You’ll see it’s glowing/It’s not some feeling I can break.”

It’s easy to hear who inspires The War On Drugs. Springsteen, Steely Dan and Mellencamp are just a few that come to mind immediately. While derivative, his style is authentic and original. Instead of replicating the sound of the great 80s legends, Granduciel gives them a respectful nod and creates something that is entirely his own. Somehow he manages to encapsulate a sense of undeniable modernity while tricking listeners into thinking A Deeper Understanding is some long lost gem from thirty years ago.

A Deeper Understanding, and The War On Drugs in general, is easily likeable. There are catchy melodies, powerful ballads, and anthems to jam out to, most of which are instantaneously pleasing to the ear. However, the more you listen, the better it gets. The War On Drugs is that person you meet and know that you like, so you go on a few dates and eventually discover more depth and more to like than you had originally anticipated. That’s not to say you will assuredly fall in love with Granduciel the way that so many have before, but he’s worth more than a few listens. Listen to A Deeper Understanding in your room with headphones on and the lights out. Blast it on your car speakers. Plug it in and listen while walking to class. It will feel cathartic in every form, and may take you somewhere you never expected to go.

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