Success is often harder to deal with than failure.
It’s a lesson bands will warn each other about but can’t truly be taught. It must be learned, because it’s up to each group to determine fight or flight, sink or swim. Lost in the Dream, the third album from Philadelphia-based indie rockers The War On Drugs, was birthed from that fight.
During the critical success of 2011’s Slave Ambient, Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel felt himself and the band losing control. “It started to spiral into emotional distress and physical manifestations of depression and paranoia,” he said, and that sense of chaos led to the spacey vibes of Lost in the Dream.
And those vibes, man.
That’s the first thing one feels after pressing play on Dream. Layers upon layers of synth, ambient guitar, and spacey vocals create an atmosphere of trippy-ness that would make 80s pop rockers proud (while also bringing in horns, strings, harmonica, and pretty much any other instrument you can name). Granduciel sings with a heady Dylan-esque intonation (or lack thereof), and his guitar and synth parts conjure up nostalgia of Springsteen, Tears For Fears, and post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd. The songs are drawn-out, patient, and willing to take as long as they need before they hit their big moments. Take the album cover almost as a visual example of what to expect: gentle colors in soft focus.
Those big moments are seldom huge moments, just bigger ones. These aren’t anthems, they’re exhalations. Granduciel wants to feel with him, and you don’t feel his paranoia or his exhaustion so much as you feel a little bit of everything. Some of the songs, like “Suffering” and “Disappearing,” tend to wallow a bit and a few are just too darn long for how little they rise or fall. But don’t let them wear you out for gems like “Under the Pressure,” “Red Eyes,” and particularly “An Ocean Between the Waves,” which demonstrate Granduciel’s lyrical and instrumental prowess.
My gripe with this record is that I wish it went somewhere. Many of the songs seem to be long for length’s sake, and while I love a long song, I love a journey, and many of these songs simply appear to be stasis. Maybe I need to be stoned to appreciate them properly, but I feel Dream could have been three tracks shorter and far more effective.
Nevertheless, the good songs are really good, and Granduciel makes his point: a drony, dreamy, vibey, spacey, emotional collection of songs.
Download: An Ocean Between the Waves