Courtesy of Collective Concerts, enter here for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see An Intimate Evening of Songs & Stories with Graham Nash on Tuesday, October 8 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Last Month's Top Sellers

1. BRIAN ENO - Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks
2. VARIOUS - Come On Let's Go! Power Pop Gems
3. SLEATER KINNEY - Center Won't Hold 
4. FREDDIE GIBBS - Bandana
5. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - Western Stars

Click here for full list.

« STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS - Mirror Traffic | Main | THE WEATHER STATION - All Of It Was Mine »

THE WAR ON DRUGS - Slave Ambient

Like a lot of people my age, I grew up in a home where a lot of Bob Dylan was played. Dylan can sound like a lot of things to a kid, what with that voice and all. But as much as I remember my mother ribbing my father over Bob's weird cadence and strained drawl, I remember thinking of it as two things: smart and comforting.

Long before my six year-old mind could actually understand the complexity, abstraction and clever metaphor of his lyrics, albums like Highway 61 Revisited gave off a vibe of intense thought and intelligence. All of this was delivered—and ironically so, given his actual prickly nature—with great warmth to my young, eager ears.

Adam Granduciel—the lead singer/songwriter of Philadelphia's War On Drugs—certainly has a voice that makes for an easy comparison to Dylan. But then again, so does nearly every male singer with an unconventional, half-spoken singing voice. What has been most striking in listening to his new album, the gorgeous Slave Ambient, is how much it immediately evokes for me those feelings of intelligence and warmth that I so associated with Dylan as a child—something that is far from true for just any old band sporting a vocalist with a nasal, Midwestern drawl. Instead, The War On Drugs own something very particular to themselves.

The key in this case is the music itself. On Slave Ambient, the quite slight three-piece manages to articulate a wide sound that is as fond of the past as it is the future. A not-so-bizarre, yet still-unique amalgam of time-honoured folk/pop songwriting and digitally fueled aural wanderlust. And so it is that the group is just as comfortable on the gentle harmonica-laced shuffle of "I Was There" as they are on the short ambient interlude "The Animator."

But the most thrilling moment on the album is one where all of these approaches come together. The sustained rush of "Your Love is Calling My Name" is a stellar six-minute drive along the "freeway" and the "harbour" and urged forward by a "strong wind through my mind." The song both flies by and passes by in slow motion, like the way those sped-up films of cars on a highway at night begin to morph from warp speed into something entirely different and perceivable. Ultimately, this song acts as a microcosm for the small victory that is the whole record. It is an album that is smart without ever feeling condescending or exclusive—familiar without ever feeling cloying or lazy.

It's a record that is a perfect soundtrack for a long walk, late at night, to nowhere in particular—the kind of accidental private moments where, as Granduciel sings on "Brothers", you find yourself, "wondering where my friends are going, and wondering why they didn't take me." 

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>