Philadelphia band The War on Drugs has been working on its follow-up to 2014's standout Lost in the Dream that topped year-end music lists more than any other album. Having battled anxiety and depression, frontman Adam Granduciel wrestled with doubt while recording A Deeper Understanding, an album lush with loss and loneliness. The record expands on the multi-layered textures from the previous and while it retains the Springsteen/Dylan/U2 appeal, Understanding reaches to a more profound place that doesn't feel overdone.
From the opener "Up All Night," a mid-tempo groove that once again lasts more than six minutes, to the closing tenth track "You Don't Have to Go," A Deeper Understanding is less guitar and more keys but still has grungy solos and entrancing hooks littered throughout. "Pain," a song released prior to the album, picks up where Dream left off riding out in climatic soundscapes while the psychedelic Americana "Nothing to Find" keeps the album from falling flat midway.
Early in the album, Granduciel exposes his heart as deep as any ocean wading through both beauty and pain in highlight "Strangest Thing." Understanding has its dimmer pieces in "Knocked Down" and "Thinking of a Place," but "In Chains" is the track that puts the album all together as it nears completion. Drawn out incandescent riffs and cinematic harmonicas are that of favorite "Red Eyes" from Dream and gives the album the mysterious spark that has made The War on Drugs a standout band in the genre.
Lyrically, Granduciel sulks in his own suffering, looking for that deeper understanding but his words are wrapped masterfully into sonic bliss that takes listeners into a pensive state. The album's closer "You Don't Have to Go" begins at a slower pace that would seem to be out of place for a final song. By its end, the buildup reaches a captivating peak leaving a longing for another run through of the entire album to absorb what just happened.
The War on Drugs brilliantly recorded another stunning set reminiscent of 2014's breakout album that landed the group a recording contract with Atlantic Records. For an east coast band, they've somehow pushed Americana to the forefront of indie rock music. The new album lives up to its expectations and maybe more.
Listen to A Deeper Understanding in its entirety below and check out the official video for "Pain" at the top of the page.