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On their third album Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs continue to combine disparate styles, including Americana, dream pop, folk rock and ambient music in a way that evokes the epic feeling of a great journey across America.
Their brilliant integration of such varied influences across more than an hour of music makes the Philadelphia outfit’s latest their most ambitious and successfully realized effort yet.
Stylistically, Lost in the Dream does a great job of expanding on 2011’s Slave Ambient. The new album strips down much of its predecessor’s shoegaze bombast, but retains its folksy frankness and reverb-doused atmosphere.
The band hones and blends these latter qualities into beautiful, spacious songs. Some, like “The Haunting Idle,” utilize gently suspended electronics and swirling, effects-heavy guitar playing to establish a gloomy ambiance that feels like a nighttime drive across the Great Plains; open, but by no means barren.
At the same time, tracks like “Eyes to the Wind” bring the album back down to its homegrown roots with fun, driving rhythms, acoustic strumming, harmonicas, and the occasional sax solo. The early reveal “Red Eyes” in particular manages to feel at once familiarly catchy and freshly novel with subdued tension that builds up until it can’t contain itself, and explodes into a liberated, westward-galloping chorus. The album truly succeeds by unfurling its classically American textures patiently, but keeping the energy level high throughout the tracks’ six-minute or longer durations.
Lyrics about confused love emphasize that the pensive songwriting and hazy instrumentation come from a place of lost-in-life rambling. The result of all this genre-bending in-betweenness is a unique sound that will appeal to underground rock aficionados and red-blooded country music lovers looking to expand their horizons alike.
Favorite tracks: “Under the Pressure,” “Red Eyes,” “The Haunting Idle”