On Friday, The War On Drugs’ released their fourth LP, A Deeper Understanding, and it’s one of my favorite albums of the year. Here was my assessment:
Just as Lost In The Dream ;built on the breakthroughs of 2011’s excellent but meandering Slave Ambient, A Deeper Understandingrepresents a new pinnacle for Granduciel’s unique, modernist/traditionalist take on American rock and roll. This necessitated greater clarity — the sprawling, ambient soundscapes that functioned as segues between songs on previous War On Drugs albums have been excised on A Deeper Understanding, putting the focus more than ever on Granduciel’s melodies and weary vocals. But Granduciel remains infinitely more comfortable with technology than the average heartland rocker.
While The War On Drugs is typically classified as a straight-forward, meat-and-potatoes rock band, Granduciel’s songs move with an electronic pulse, with synthesizers and drum machines organically integrated with surging guitars, a sonic trademark that’s closer to Empire Burlesque than Blonde On Blonde. Listening to A Deeper Understanding, it’s as if a mad genius spent years studying “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” and finally found a way to make it sound amazing.
How did The War On Drugs get to this point, with a brilliant new album that has many critics calling them America’s next great band? I called up Dan DeLuca, long-time music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, to talk about the band’s career, its roots in Philly, and the formative influences on frontman Adam Granduciel. We also discuss whether A Deeper Understanding is even better than the band’s 2014 breakthrough, Lost In The Dream.