Threeish years ago, I recall hearing The War on Drug’s song “Under the Pressure” play on almost every drive I took to a college visit my senior year of high school. Aside from all the Chipotle burritos I was eating at the time, it may’ve been the most calming thing for me as a confused high school student. Something about the echoey piano riff, the swirling guitar breakdown, the breathy and barely-straining vocals overtop of hazy, phasey production and the intro, which sounds like a million little magnetic marbles of music notes hitting the floor served as a gorgeous soundtrack for the evening drives back home.
10ish college visits, a few English classes and a deep love of “Lost in the Dream” later, I went on a spontaneous trip with some friends to see the group on the “A Deeper Understanding” tour in our neighboring city. I never would’ve expected that to happen, to see the band that got me through my college visits in the town right next to where I ended up, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two from the unexpected since I was 18.One might say getting lost in the dream for the night was an excellent choice.
It’s hard to describe what makes me love The War on Drugs so much (other than all the Reaganism jokes my friends and I make). If you read my last post, you’ll recall I described their music as “It makes me feel like I could just exist within a sound” to a professor. I have to say that’s the most accurate description I can come up with, and it is THE highest compliment I can pay.
In my experience, sometimes it’s hard for a band that relies heavily on ambiance and layered, moody, melodic music stylings in their work to transfer to a live setting. But the combination of how close attention to detail the band pays to their music, while seeming so simple and understated (even down to the light show, which matched the intricacies of each song while blending perfectly in with the mood) makes for such a delightfully cohesive and transformative sonic experience. I felt like I was being transported to another world with each seamless shift from one song to the next. Beautifully blurred; fitting as that’s how I’d describe some of my favourite songs off “Lost in the Dream.”
The band manages to make “consistent” sound like an exciting adjective. The concert was a two-hour sonic landscape of the sliver of time right between sunset and nighttime, and I found myself closing my eyes at the peak of each song, being shown a world of climbing sounds and delicately woven notes unfolding audibly.
“A Deeper Understanding” is definitely cleaner-sounding to me production-wise and musically than “Lost in the Dream”, but it still manages to capture just the right amount of excitement and predicatably unpredictable twists each song pulls off in a runtime spanning from 5 to 11 minutes.
I said to someone I was there with, “I’m gonna lose my mind when they play Under the Pressure.” And when the song became an 11-minute jam session between the guitarist and the saxophone player, I only wish that my past self could’ve seen where she’d end up so she could stop worrying so much.
Maybe that’s why I like TWOD so much. Their music is calming while being infinitely interesting; something new to discover with each listen whether you’re looking for it or not. From the opening of “Holding On,” to the crowd’s raucous jumping and yelling during the orchestrated tumult of “Red Eyes,” to the subtle nods to synth-rock on “Up All Night,” this was a show I could’ve stayed at all night.
While I would’ve liked to’ve heard “Thinking of a Place” or “Suffering,” I think I can keep those in my back pocket for the times of days right before the sun sets and rises, and the world is quiet and still, and I feel as peaceful as I remind myself I always should be.
Thanks for reading, and God bless.