The War on Drugs
Slave Ambient


4.5
superb

Review

by robin EMERITUS
August 7th, 2011 | 184 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Americana, broken into a hundred tiny pieces.

I can call Slave Ambient rain music and not feel bad about it. Unlike the kind of music you’d usually tag for the rain, the sad stuff, it is a completely drenched record, taking its worn lyrics and pouring down on them. The War on Drugs has, in this sense, always been an intriguing band, able to do more than simply complement their lyrics with music. As musicians, they know the themes they sing inside-out, ready to take the Americana influences they have and invert them with all things “shoegaze.” They add in harmonica for good measure, but be it one genre or the other, The War on Drugs, and Slave Ambient in particular, is the work of a band already perfectly in control of itself, and so early in their career. They know how their music sounds, and I guess it sounds like it’s pouring.

Still, beyond that, it’s hard to write about this band. And I guess that’s because there’s no “angle” to write from. In one corner, they have a master-class lyricist, able to reflect with the pen as jumpily and worryingly as “wondering where my friends are going / and wondering why they didn’t take me” and then throw the line away. Granduciel’s lyrics always carry an indescribable kind of tone which can only really be called self-kicking, but even if this kind of lyric seems simple, no one else could write it, or sing it, in the way he does. He waves away the deprecating lyrics of “Brothers” so easily, and the music around it- the album’s second corner- refuses to play in any higher ground. The music on Slave Ambient moulds songs to feel perfectly for an atmosphere that plays on a hundred little details at once. That’s why there are only eight actual songs on this album, because the guys in the War on Drugs are so obsessed with the details and so ready to leave them their space.

I could talk about both the lyrics and music separately, of course, because they’re both such brilliant aspects for one band to have, but what would be the use in that? There’s no moment in Slave Ambient better than the opener “Best Night” to prove the point that without one the other wouldn’t exist: without the music tracing the words around it, the guitar notes copying Granduciel’s singing, the distortion drenching every moment, there would be nothing that makes the War on Drugs as brilliant as they are. You listen to every moment of Slave Ambient, the part where he sings “wondering where my friends are going” and every noise, big and small, that deals with the thought.

As a result, Slave Ambient is an album you play loud. The War on Drugs have, until now, been a very meandering band, with songs such as “A Pile of Trees” moving through eight minutes of what felt like improvisation, or else “Arms Like Boulders” mouthing off to cover a half-constructed song. Here, there’s a pattern set. And it’s a pattern so strong that every tiny moment counts: a song such as “My Love Is Calling Your Name” is impossible to appreciate quiet because of the layers the War on Drugs now lace it with, nearly all of them created with an assortment of clashing guitar noises. It is impossible to be distracted from the music by Granduciel’s lyrical mumblings either, so where the ambience would take the centre-stage before this album, or, if not the ambience, the lyrics, Slave Ambient moves the song with the pattern. As a result, “My Love Is Calling Your Name” feels connected with a song twenty minutes away from it. The flow is that good; sometimes I forget if I’m listening to “The Animator” or its actual song counterpart, “Come To the City.” And then things get going. Granduciel’s lyrics start thrusting the song forward. The noises twist the Americana around and around.

It’s so strange to think of this record as the band’s second. Slave Ambient is the work of a confident band and an articulate lyricist, both who always seemed so on their first record but never really cared. Here, they seem to know where everything goes, and it’s as if they always did but never really felt the need for things to fit. Now they’re ready to put it all together. The melodies on Slave Ambient know when it’s their turn. So does the noise. Granduciel knows where to kick himself. Slave Ambient is the work of a band making us listen for every piece of them. And it drizzled a little while I wrote this. So I played it loud. And I heard everything.



Recent reviews by this author
Sharon Van Etten Are We ThereHis Hero Is Gone Fifteen Counts of Arson
Superchunk I Hate MusicThe Weakerthans Reconstruction Site
The Waterboys This Is the SeaOwen At Home With Owen
user ratings (272)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
BigHans (4.5)
The War on Drugs encapsulate every relevant foundation of Americana into a viable Album of the Year ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
robin
Emeritus
August 7th 2011


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is my review in the stylings of alex robertson

wabbit
August 7th 2011


7009 Comments


sounds like the kind of music I like the most.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
August 7th 2011


7357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not sure whether this'll be my thing but I'll check it out nevertheless.

gaslightanthem
August 7th 2011


5209 Comments


am very much looking forward to listening to this , crying to this

cbmartinez
August 8th 2011


2525 Comments


one of the best of the year hands down

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
August 8th 2011


23909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I really liked their EP that came out in 2010 I'll probably get this. I love the artwork.

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

Eskate87
August 8th 2011


959 Comments


heard about these guys. will def check out. so much good music this year.

Gmork89
August 8th 2011


5516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds interesting.

MaskAtTheMasquerade
August 8th 2011


2887 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fuck yeah these guys are great

G3N3R1C
August 8th 2011


1945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kurt Vile used to be in this band, right?

Might check this out.

Phideaux
August 8th 2011


1654 Comments


Sounds pretty cool. Will probably check this out.

ECRbubs
August 8th 2011


687 Comments


Saw these guys open for The Walkmen in Philly a couple years ago, they were really good and like 30 people were in the audience. Met the lead singer after the show and he was really nice except he asked me if I had a record player, I said no then he told me "I was gonna give you a signed vinyl but you don't have a record player so...". I have since acquired a great turntable and stereo. ಠ_ಠ

I am pretty excited to listen to this though.

MaskAtTheMasquerade
August 8th 2011


2887 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is fucking GOOD

Killahit
August 8th 2011


311 Comments


Absolutely one of the single greatest albums this year has ever shown

Yuma310
August 8th 2011


1656 Comments


Another album I want!! I need to get paid... asap.

AggravatedYeti
August 8th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hehehe.

psykonaut
August 8th 2011


3913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah this is awesome

robin
Emeritus
August 8th 2011


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hehehe.


laughing with me, laughing with me

AggravatedYeti
August 8th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

100%

in actuality I love this. That last string of sentences is excellent Robin.

G3N3R1C
August 8th 2011


1945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

listening to Black Water Falls and this is really really good. almost gives off an 'Arcade Fire gone country' vibe.

yeah, definitely think i'm gonna give this whole thing a listen.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy