Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Album Review: The War on Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore

The War on Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore
**** out of *****

On The War On Drugs last effort, 2017's A Deeper Understanding, Adam Granduciel found a perfect combo of 80's AOR sound and personal connection with his singing/lyrics to break through resulting in one of the best albums of the decade. That record took the Bruce Hornsby, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen mid-80's pop ethos to modern production extremes and for I Don't Live Here Anymore those talents get pushed even further while feeling as if there is a transition to a next phase in the recent effort. 

The first mention for any War On Drugs album should be the production and sound, as layers of pianos, guitars, strings, programmed beats and drums meld to create a lush pop rock environment that rings with delight. The album was co-produced by Granduciel and engineer Shawn Everett and apparently re-mixed mastered and recorded multiple times over the last few years. The final product simply sounds wonderful as speakers and headphones illuminate a world of sonic delights in each track. 

Granduciel and Everett really perfected their sound at this point and if anything, this go around gives into a few more artsy experimentation's. "I Don't Wanna Wait" employs electronic dance beats underneath the swirling sounds and vocal effects before transforming into a big rock number to close while "Victim" keeps the electro beats pumping with repetition with squirreling noise rock guitar/keys splashes at points. 

One of Granduciel best tricks is letting a song breath on its own, most of the tracks reach the six minute mark and few feel overburdened or drawn out. While openers "Living Proof" and "Harmonia's Dreams" both work well it is at the end of the record that things come into better focus. 

For the title track "I Don't Live Here Anymore" (featuring Lucius) Granduciel takes a big step, he let's someone else into his sonic world. Lucius sings back up and expands tWoD sound even more. Lyrically he pulls direct lines from Dylan's "Shelter From The Storm" while recalling dancing with someone at a Dylan show to "Desolation Row". These are major steps for an artist who crafts his own singular sound/lyrical world and revels in it yet the direct Dylan references can feel oddly jarring. 

This sense of openness continues with "Old Skin" which sounds like a composite of ten Springsteen efforts and Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" rolled into one mega tune and then "Wasted" pulls it all together, a dynamite 80's pounding affair that blisters from the start with confidence rather than a reclusiveness. "Rings Around My Father's Eyes" is the theme of the album, a transitional work about growing up, growing out, growing apart and aging and probably should have ended the record with a powerful statement, but "Occasional Rain" wraps things up and feels tacked on. 

Granduciel is clearly moving in a direction where he is pairing his filtered layered sound with an organic sense of humanity. I Don't Live Here Anymore is a good step along the journey, no matter where The War On Drugs ends up.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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