It’s been a busy three and a half years since the last release from The War on Drugs. During this time, frontman Adam Granduciel has been locked away in the studio, writing, recording, and editing away with the assistance of Dave Hartley, Robbie Bennett, Charlie Hall, Anthony LaMarca, Jon Natchez, and engineer Shawn Everett. From all this hard work the fourth studio album, A Deeper Understanding, was born.
Up All Night is the smooth opening to their album. There’s a cheeriness in the piano that instantly lightens your mood, despite the sense of doubt and anxiety in the lyrics. The themes of light and love are cemented in this track, which is repeated throughout and unites the album.
Their lengthy lead single Thinking of a Place is a tranquil song, with the synthesisers in particular sounding like the backing to a guided meditation session. Granduciel is “thinking of a place, and it feels so very real, oh it was so full of love.” The lyrics and music pair together to capture the slowed down ecstasy of falling in love and creates a romanticised version of our world where this can flourish.
Light is brought to us again in Pain, though this time on a bittersweet melody. Granduciel’s silky voice recalls how he “was staring into the light when I saw you in the distance,” but then goes on to beg this person to “pull me close and let me hold you in, give me the deeper understanding of who I am,” mentioning the album title. The solemn tone in the music beautifully translates this plea.
The plea for this human connection is repeated in Holding On, as he askes “I’m heading down a different road, can we walk it side by side?” The faster beat picks up the mood to a more hopeful vibe, and believe me, you will be halfway through the song before you realise you’ve been tapping your foot in time with the bass.
Although the album can feel gloomy at times, there’s a delicate elegance to the album that deserves your full attention.