Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The War On Drugs- Future Weather (2010)

Reccomended If You Like: Kurt Vile, Real Estate, Beach House, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan

Just when I was ready to start drawing up my best of 2010 list, along comes The War On Drugs’ new EP Future Weather. The War On Drugs play a unique blend of shoegaze that draws on Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen as much as it does My Bloody Valentine. Listen to cuts like “Taking the Farm” or “Barrel of Batteries” from the band’s 2008 debut LP Wagonwheel Blues and you’ll hear frontman Adam Granduciel’s abstract, colorful lyrics layered over warbling, fuzzed out guitars and the frantic pounding of the rhythm section.

Wagonwheel Blues found a lot of its strength in the spectacular guitar playing and songwriting of Kurt Vile, one of the group’s founding members, who has a burgeoning solo career and is the writer of one of my favorite songs ever. Vile doesn’t play on Future Weather, something that made me skeptical at first, but makes the record all the more impressive. Comparing Wagonwheel Blues with Vile’s solo work, one can tell that despite the strong similarities in style, albums like Childish Prodigy and Constant Hitmaker have a distinct singer-songwriter feel to them not found on Wagonwheel Blues. Vile’s absence on Future Weather allows Granduciel to invoke that same singer-songwriter feel.

The album’s first proper song, “Baby Missiles,” wouldn’t sound out of place on Wagonwheel Blues. Its blaring organs and frantic lyrics call to mind tracks like “Needle In Your Eye #16” and the aforementioned “Taking The Farm.” “Baby Missiles” exemplifies my favorite quality about The War On Drugs: the urgency of their music. Though it’s hard to explain, there is something about the way that the rhythm section plays combined with Granduciel’s frenetic delivery that gives their music this beautiful rushed quality. It’s not rushed to the point where things sound out of sync. But it makes it sound more human, like the band is performing for you live. The rhythms they utilize lack a certain uniformity, calling to mind the early work of The Velvet Underground.

Following “Baby Missiles” is “Comin’ Through,” the album’s finest track and one of the best songs of the year. Granduciel trades his schizophrenic shouts for a more intimate delivery. The bass throbs behind him and the lead guitar maneuvers in and out of the vocal lines, each bend and slide echoing with heavy reverb and chorus. The acoustic riff that serves as the song’s core gives it the singer-songwriter feel mentioned earlier; Granduciel’s commanding vocal presence and the song’s simplicity imply a certain ownership to Granduciel.

“A Pile of Tires,” my personal favorite on the album, only reinforces the notion that The War on Drugs has become more of a solo output for Granduciel. The song is just him and an acoustic guitar, playing a “Buckets Of Rain” sounding riff filtered through heavy reverb and effects. Once again, Granduciel trades his normal delivery for a pained intimacy, showcasing his much improved ability to write gorgeous vocal melodies. “Brothers” is much like “Comin’ Through,” based around a folky acoustic riff that blossoms into a psychedelic mix of echoing guitars, steady rhythms and Dylan-esque vocals. Thunderous organ hits and swells of synth drive album closer “The History of Plastic.”

In between a few of the tracks are little 1-2 minute variations that hint at melodies explored in the album’s proper songs. They give the album an impressive flow not found on many EPs. And to be honest, given that so many EPs are usually only afterthoughts or leftovers from LPs, I don’t like calling Future Weather an EP. The fact that it is almost made me write it off completely. But this is an absolutely stunning piece of music that could hold its own against any of the LPs being considered for album of the year. The War on Drugs’ unique singer-songwriter take on shoegaze is so refreshingly original, it’s a crime to ignore anything they put out. Check out Future Weather (click the artwork to sample) before you start drawing up your best of 2010 lists.

1. Come To The City #14
2. Baby Missiles
3. Comin' Through
4. A Pile of Tires
5. Comin' Round
6. Brothers
7. Missiles Reprise
8. The History of Plastic

Buy Future Weather from Secretly Canadian

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