The War on Drugs’ “A Deeper Understanding”

Illustrator: Katie Heywood

The War on Drugs are known for their ability to incorporate nostalgic elements while also keeping a fresh sound. With their fourth studio album, “A Deeper Understanding,” they bring their eclectic and experimental music to a new level. The instrumentation is the high point of this album. There is a certain lucidity to the instrumentation that gives “A Deeper Understanding” its appeal. Most tracks are synth-led, with fuzzed out, psychedelic guitar solos closing the tracks, creating incredible endings to songs like “Pain” and “Strangest Thing.” The War on Drugs continue to draw heavy influences from Bruce Springsteen, given the rollicking guitar hooks and drum beats suited for long drives on the highway. Lead vocalist Adam Granduciel’s wispy but poignant vocals are analogous to Bob Dylan (especially on “In Chains,” which features a harmonica solo).

At its core, “A Deeper Understanding” is about emotional distance and observance. Granduciel is an emotional and physical wreck on this album, as exemplified on “Pain,” where he is unsure what is causing him such deep, sorrowful pain. Granduciel’s lyrics are also contemplative, such as on “Thinking of a Place,” where he compares the experience of finding new love to “walking against the darkness of a beach,” a scene that is serene, yet uncertain.

The War on Drugs have come back with yet another impressive record to add to their collection. The quality of the production measures up well to the hidden melancholy of the lyrics. These elements combine to create “A Deeper Understanding,” your go-to album for late-night drives.