Review of Slave Ambient Album by The War On Drugs

Having spent a significant amount of time with ex- War On Drugs guitarist and co founder Kurt Vile, touring with Vile and the violators, the ex members' solo project, it took Adam Granduciel longer to generate The War On Drugs' second album, Slave Ambient. After the success of Kurt Viles solo material it was inevitable that it would be hard for Granduciel to write a record that wouldn't be immediately discounted by critics and cast under Viles now well established shadow.

The War On Drugs Slave Ambient Album

The opening track, Best Night, like a large number of the tracks throughout the album has a moody tone, seemingly effortless droning vocals lie delicately on top of whining guitars and jangling effects. Making for a track that doesn't take itself too seriously, which proves a welcome break from a large majority of indie music at the minute, and if Granduciel is actually a self engrossed, pretentious Philadelphian then he disguises it very well. Brothers is another perfect assembly of different sounds and instruments, layers of guitar parts can often turn into a hazy mess of noise but The War On Drugs have no trouble in making the different guitar lines bounce off each other to stunning effect. The addition of the Dylan- inspired vocals provide an experience which brings back the era of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen but with a modern twist.

Slave Ambient also shows that The War On Drugs haven't got lost in thirty year old Americana with clear influences from the likes of 'Arcade Fire' in tracks such as Baby Missiles which isn't so dissimilar from AF's Month Of May with an added dose of Springsteen and some rich harmonica which has become so strongly associated with folk music, in particular that of Bob Dylan. The final track, Black Water Falls, brings this beautifully crafted album to a close, there is a slight sense of regret in Granduciels lyrics and vocal delivery, crying out over gentle guitars and ambient soundscapes.

What is expected of the album is a simple dose of folk and Americana and, although these elements remain prominent throughout there is something different, a slight change in direction resulting in songs which are very different to one another, dipping into different genres and ideas yet still bound together by the main two main influences, making for a successful album and a rewarding listen. The twelve songs are wide ranging and diverse, all generating different feelings and emotions, which are well worth the two year wait.

James Hopkin

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