War On Drugs / White Laces – 20th Century Theater

It seems like every article I read about The War On Drugs and their new release “Lost In The Dream” mentions former War On Drugs member Kurt Vile and critically acclaimed 2013 album Wakin On A Pretty Daze (it was one of my favorite albums of last year). While I appreciate the Kurt Vile connection and the kind cache that comes from having a connection to an indie music darling, I feel like The War On Drugs are beyond that now. They are a musical force to be reckoned with in their own right.

I’d like to make a comparison, if you will. When J. Tillman left Fleet Foxes to return to solo music under the moniker of Father John Misty, people always noted his role as the drummer to the harmony-laden indie folkers. Shortly after his album “Fear Fun” was released, it was realized that Father John Misty had broken the mold of Fleet Foxes and was his own artist, writing esoteric lyrics about life, love, and death. I think this album, “Lost In The Dream,” is that turning point for The War On Drugs. No longer are they “that one band Kurt Vile was on” but now shine on their own.

The album wears the band’s influences on its sleeves and pays them homage in subtle ways that keep me constantly trying to figure who they remind me of from track to track. Album opener “Under The Pressure” reminds me a bit of later era Police. The vocals are reminiscent of Bob Dylan, but no so much so that it’s a comes of as a poor copy of the original. The lushness of the album from is pulsing drum beats and 80’s fusion style synth pads to tremolo guitar washes and arpeggiated piano chords make for a sonic landscape that builds from song to song. Listening to the album is like watching a painter slowly apply color to canvas to create an ever-changing story. Lines like “In my finest hour, can I be more than just a fool?” from “An Ocean In Between The Waves” are a window in the the mature and dark lyricism that focuses on introspection and an audit of one’s self and their place in the world. “Lost In The Dream” asks listeners to not just bob their heads and tap their feet, but insists that they lose themselves into the lyrics for a deeper experience – and what an rich experience it is.

We’re only a few months into 2014, but I think it’s safe to say that in nine months, as this year comes to a close, “Lost In The Dream” will be in strong contention for my favorite album of the year.

Brian Bruemmer
Brian Bruemmer