It’s hard to know what to say about The War on Drugs at this point. Not only have they been one of the more ubiquitous bands in indie rock for the past decade, but most of their albums have been covered to some extent on this blog. Their signature sound, a potent mix of synthy soundscapes and thrillingly unchained guitar rock (trying really hard to avoid the term “heartland rock” here) feels both like it’s been somewhat influential but also hard to completely replicate. Maybe this is due to the dual amount of sonic precision and ambition that’s put into each album, while it feels as if Adam Granducial is putting as much of his emotional state into a War on Drugs album as he is his musical talents. Which would explain why we always have to wait 3 or 4 years for a new WOD album, which never feels that long considering each album has enough little nuggets of complexity to keep you relistening until the next one.
The most noticeable thing about I Don’t Live Here Anymore is that it sounds a little bit scaled back compared to the last two War on Drugs albums. This may sound a little odd to say of an album where multiple tracks crack the 6-minute mark, but that speaks to just how sprawling their last two albums were (particularly A Deeper Understanding). The fact that this album doesn’t go quite as big could be a result of pandemic-era music being decidedly more introverted, but the fact that the album’s recording started in 2018 and continued on through 2021 with lots of tinkering throughout makes it harder to say. Also, the fact of the matter is, a lot of these songs are still pretty triumphant, with the title track in particular feeling just as much like a retro radio anthem as anything the band has recorded.
Lyrically, The War on Drugs has always had this feeling of Granduciel wrestling with himself, and as the album’s title would indicate, it feels like he’s wrestling just as much with where he is physically is in the world as where he is in his own head. It’s an album that’s the product of moving around, both on the road touring, but also with the Granduciel moving from Philly (we’ll miss ya, dude) to L.A. to N.Y. and then back to L.A. again. Yet these songs’ plainspoken nature feel as though they’re keeping him grounded wherever he may end up. I’m not sure if this ever-so-slightly less ambitious approach makes for quite as thrilling of an effort as the last two War On Drugs efforts, but considering the way their albums tend to linger for a while, I’m sure I Don’t Live Here Anymore will continue to live in my headphones for a while.