“We as a band went from worrying about the record to worrying about the person,” speaks The War on Drugs bassist Dave Hartley of Adam Granduciel during the making of ‘Lost In The Dream’, the band’s critic-aligning breakthrough – birthed in the grip of a mountainous, sleep-fearing depression. However, sourcing its strength from obsessive insularity, the claustrophobia of ‘Lost In The Dream’ has finally fallen away leaving only traces – unabashed curiosity non-restricted by the confines of a shade-of-mind. Where ‘Lost In The Dream’ aimed to kill the day – pulling longer, oceanic nights close, the motions of the band’s latest effort in ‘A Deeper Understanding’ attempt to dissipate the certainty of forever that was held within Granduciel’s nightmare-hour. The Philadelphian troubadour introduces the band’s fourth full-length with the words “I don’t know,” on the all-consuming ‘Up All Night’, and with such uncertainty, an exploration of past-pain and careful openness follows.

Titanic, musical clarity runs through the Los Angeles air of ‘A Deeper Understanding’. ‘Nothing To Find’ is thick with pure, propellant euphoria – rising from the changing tides of the past to destroy feeling, where ‘Holding On’ calls loveless consequences from across the room – an ascending hive of warning that hides a future within reeds of retrospective ache. Granduciel sinks with reflections of letting go too fast, or of holding on for too long, before bowing out to a question pulled from the core of the record: “Hope or heart?” Nothing is hidden, and everything is felt.

Lush, 82-mile expanse – driven by need and almost-understanding, buries itself deep in the album’s changing mind. “Is this love?” Ganduciel asks on the fantasy-Americana of ‘In Chains’, where the dancing of ‘Clean Living’ wants to be shown how to leave loneliness behind. Granduciel’s voice swims skyward on ‘Knocked Down’, only to fall from a great height. “Far away there is a star,” begins the slow-burner – thinking of a place where one might dare to be free, before the fantasist steps through dream-gate into a world of raining shame. “I want to love you but I get knocked down,” extinguishes the diamonds of Granduciel’s night sky and offers a heavy blow to those who wish to give in, but can’t.

Layers of grasping, falling, foaling – limbs of “I want to make you stay,” fight from beneath the surface of Granduciel’s walls of weather on ‘You Don’t Have To Go’ – closing the album non-conclusively and speaking to the lack of finality that’s held within the frontman’s perfectionist, labyrinthine-dream. There is no ‘over’, only ‘forward’, and Granduciel has never sounded closer to finding what can’t be found. “All alone. Beaten up. Free.”

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James Musker

Music Journalism student and lover of all things sensory and cosmic.