The War on Drugs’ 2011 sophomore release was as slow burner. Slave Ambient is one of those albums that you put on in the early afternoon and hours later realize you’ve listened to it ten times in a row and still want to hear it again. After receiving quite a bit of critical acclaim and a successful tour, Adam Granduciel (The War on Drugs’ main man) spent fifteen months at home in Philadelphia crafting its follow-up, Lost In The Dream.
The basic sound of Slave Ambient is still intact, Tunnel of Love era Bruce Springsteen with Bob Dylan vocals and a splash of Tom Petty, but the songs have grown longer with half of the ten tracks going over the six minute mark. Opener “Under the Pressure” is a marvel. A piano twinkles in and out before a mid-section breakdown of layered guitars and synthesizers, a drum then kick starts the song back alive. “Eyes To The Wind” turns up Granduciel’s Dylanesque vocal inflections when he sings, “I’m just a bit run down here at the moment, yeah I’m all alone here, living in darkness”. “Burning” contains a piano line that is an absolute dead ringer for Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”… and is all the better for it.
In the hands of lesser talent, longer tracks can easily lose focus but here that really only happens with the meandering “Disappearing”. Lost In The Dream was crafted in the city but it is the sound of prairie skies, dusty roads and pick-up trucks. Tim Riggins and Lyla Gerrity would surely approve. This is already one of the best albums of 2014. Pennsylvania forever.