Lifted Licks: The War on Drugs, "A Deeper Understanding"
Every Thursday here at Elegant Stoner, we pick out an album that's not only great, but also works well with the kindest bud you can find. Music is excellent already, but adding marijuana to it makes it that much better. This is a weekly column called Lifted Licks.
This week, we're spotlighting the Pennsylvania-based band called The War on Drugs (their name, we'll presume, doesn't reflect their support of that failed war). The band is led by Adam Granduciel, a frequent collaborator and friend of Kurt Vile (who just released another great album with Courtney Barnett). The group has released three albums before their latest, with the last one, "Lost in the Dream," claiming a lot of critical accolades.
So there are some high expectations heading into this one, but "A Deeper Understanding" does a great job of beating them all. The album is at times soaring and powerful, and occasionally falls down into the depths of melancholy, if not quite depression. Granduciel has had to deal with depression in the past, and his previous work has been somewhat dark, but things stay lighter than ever here. The album's opener, "Up All Night" is a great example of how this works: The song starts relatively light and rhythmic, with Granduciel essentially chanting lyrics over a growing set of beats and piano keys, and the song eventually flowers (with reverb and distortion heavy guitar licks) into a shower of sounds, all of them working together to create a mood that's both hopeful and fragile.
"Thinking of a Place" was the album's lead single, and the fact that it's 11:11 long should tell you what you need to know about what's happening here. This is an album for putting on, hitting a pipe or a vape of indica, and then just sinking down into your couch and letting it all wash over you. The songs are bold and clear, but they bring back the same musical passages to you over and over again, changing slightly each time, like waves coming in and out while the tide grows and recedes.
It's great stuff. Even if you're not sold on the whole album, the video for "Strangest Thing" is well worth a watch, and that's The Wire's Commissioner Burrell in there!
As critics start to put their year end lists out for music, this album keeps showing up on there. On this cold December weekend coming up, you could do a lot worse than to grab your favorite strain, light it up, and enjoy this album. It's our choice for Lifted Licks this week.