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The War On Drugs - Come to the City
Nov 19, 2011
Total plays:
70 times
Why do we like this?
If, a few days ago, you had implored me to imagine a vocalist who combined the dipping twang of Bob Dylan with the sing-speak style of Lou Reed while managing to sound melodious, I would have called you crazy. That was before I listened to Slave Ambient, the excellent sophomore full length release from Philadelphia-based band The War on Drugs.

This album was recorded without founding member Kurt Vile, but the two undoubtedly remain musical bedfellows "” if this is the new folk rock, I'm 100% on board. An exercise in delicious restraint, the album manages to evoke the emotional power of stadium rock while coating tracks with the seductive sheen of measured ambient noise. This is Springsteen through delicate fuzz, or Neil Young through misty fog "” it inevitably brings to mind powerhouses of 1970s folk rock on a shimmering psych rock wavelength.

What's especially impressive is the way that instrumental lines seem to stand out while simultaneously blending into a layered, symphonic sound effect. Guitar riffs give way to twanging notes, a harmonica will add depth, while behind percussion chugs along with a locomotive beat. The same goes for front man Adam Granduciel's vocals. Just as the overall sound seems to be one of restraint, Granduciel gives just enough annunciation, melody and direction to provide a narrative, while melding with the overall sound.

There are stand out tracks, of course "” "Into the City" crescendos with such subtlety that it nearly sneaks up on you, while the album's first single "Baby Missiles" starts strong and proceeds with a raucous joy throughout "” but Slave Ambient really is best listened to as an album in whole. It feels, more than many albums I've heard lately, like a full experience "” you, the listener, are meant to ride a wave of sound as it ebbs and flows, but never really loses focus.
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