Adam Granduciel’s musical career path as The War On Drugs has been a pretty interesting one. Musically starting out in an almost place of experimentation with touches of pop elements on Wagonwheel Blues. His Dylan-esque vocals coalescing with his space-y folk strumming was a hint of great things to come.
But with Slave Ambient in 2011 he established The War On Drugs as one of the great American bands of my generation. Icy electronics combined with guitars and intropspective songwriting made for an engaging and densely-layered listening experience. Then Lost In The Dream came along in 2014 and all bets were off. Granduciel made a record of exquisite pop sensibilities that somehow sounded both adventurous and ready for top 40 radio. That is, if the radio was located in 1985.
With I Don’t Live Here Anymore Granduciel and The War On Drugs seem to have found a perfect balance between their adult alternative sound established with Lost In The Dream and their last album A Deeper Understanding, while never losing that edge they created a decade ago. There’s still a pop sensibility here, but the songs are tighter and feel more assured. Granduciel still seems shaky about the world around him, but he sounds like he’s in a good place personally.
I still hear the influence of Springsteen, Petty, and Dylan, but The War On Drugs sounds like a band that has found the balance between inspiration and inspired. “Living Proof” was the first single and is the opening track. It’s reminiscent of Wilco with it’s quiet piano and slinky guitar lines. There’s a Sky Blue Sky vibe here, which was the point where Tweedy said the hell with it, let’s just write some great songs and leave the tortured artist crap behind. Granduciel seems settled and comfortable here. Earnest, heartfelt music, that’s where it’s at. But then we’re given the driving, gorgeous “Harmonia’s Dream”. A song of uplift and almost weightless optimism. Jangly, space-y, and soaring with the confidence of a band who knows who they are.
Elsewhere “Change” puts Granduciel’s voice up front with a solid musical backbone behind him. “Victim” has an 80s alternative pulse to it, Granduciel’s voice with just the right amount of effects on it. I’m reminded of Lower Dens and Wild Nothing here. Title track “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” has some amazing background vocals courtesy of Lucius. “Wasted” nearly insists you jump up and down, pumping your fists in the air. The Boss abides. Album closer “Occasional Rain” coasts along on a shimmering melody and pop grandiosity.
I Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t veer too far from what came before, but it possesses a confidence in songwriting and intent that Granduciel and company have been building towards for a decade now. A consistently brilliant album from one of the best bands we’ve got.
8.9 out of 10