The War On Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore
If you’re planning a solo road trip and are looking for the ideal soundtrack, just play the War on Drugs’ catalog in order. Long before they became big enough to pack festivals, Adam Granduciel and company have made albums that feel heretical to play on any device besides a car stereo or an audiophile’s living room setup, with heartland and Americana brilliantly fused with neo-psychedelia and shoegaze. Listen to their fifth album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, and see if you still have any doubts about their ability to headline Madison Square Garden this January.
A live setting is going to be the best place to experience these songs, which, great as they are in recorded form, are begging to be absorbed through multiple senses and a chain reaction of catharsis. I Don’t Live Here Anymore is the biggest The War on Drugs has ever felt, and they know how to harness wonder without veering into self-parody. Some will find plenty to roll their eyes at, from the obvious Bruce Springsteen worship to the Bob Dylan namedrop to the extended instrumental outros to the constant references to “change” and “rain” – and not just in the songs “Change” and “Occasional Rain.” But if anyone has figured out how to make corny tropes palatable, even thrilling, it’s The War on Drugs.
It wouldn’t be the same without Granduciel at the center of it all. As soon as his close-miked vocals enter on opener and lead single “Living Proof” (also, perhaps not coincidentally, the name of a Springsteen song), it’s like hearing from a friend for the first time in years. That emphasis on relatability is what makes him such a great frontman. He never sounds like someone trying to impress with his musical acumen or treat his rhetorical questions on love and self-development as some kind of philosophical truth. But he’s also not too cool to explode things through a massive chorus about the agony of change, like he does on “Old Skin.”
And, unlike many other albums designed for sudden impact, I Don’t Live Here Anymore reveals more of itself with subsequent listens. Listen to the aching vocals beneath the mix in “Change” or notice how the lyrics end on a hauntingly uncertain note where Granduciel considers he may have been cursed from birth. Or consider how he portrays rain as both a protector and a punisher on “Rings Around My Father’s Eyes.” This is an album that doesn’t grow on you so much as it becomes more and more embraceable. Be prepared to go “Shit, that’s deep” unironically at lines like “When you feel alone, can you really feel alive?” or suspend your glassy-eyed doomscrolling to enjoy indie pop duo’s Lucius glowing backing vocals on the title track.
I Don’t Live Here Anywhere doesn’t have quite the emotional power of Lost in the Dream or the precision of A Deeper Understanding. Sometimes, the need for everything to hit at once can cause some aspects to get lost in the process, like the baritone sax that keeps popping up in the liner notes but which too often escapes notice on the album. But The War on Drugs continue to make the classic feel timeless and the earnest feel earned.
Pre-order I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War On Drugs HERE