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Sweet Escapism With The War On Drugs

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 7, 2011 4:40PM

Though summertime is associated with heady road trips on the open highway, it's right about now that everyone really wants to get away. In August, Philly-based The War On Drugs released their sophomore album Slave Ambient and quickly became our unofficial soundtrack for dreaming of somewhere else.

Rather than wistful—which is often just a few moves from "longing" or other bummer emotions—The War On Drugs is dreamy in a way that's completely absorbing. But there's no gloom in the music, even when the purely instrumental songs open up for the listener like a big, nostalgia-ready canvas. Think of a friend linking your arm and walking you to someplace without a known destination; the music carries you off and you're happy to oblige for the sake of simply moving on.

The War On Drugs' co-founder Kurt Vile hasn't been with the band since 2008's Wagonwheel Blues debut, but his modern Springsteen-meets-Dylan imprint has carried to this second album. Stylistically, co-founder and frontman Adam Granduciel has picked up where Blues left off: folk-style electric guitars, upbeat percussion and the lightest touch of synth when the vocals recede to let the soundscape unfold.

There are thoughtful choices evident in the new album, from the decision to nix vocals on a few tracks to how to layer the tricky combo of dusty Americana and laser-light electronics. Luckily, Granduciel and the band has figured all that out behind the scenes. All the listener hears in an easy, inviting, "let's go."

The War On Drugs play with Arc in Round tonight, December 7, at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave., 9 p.m., $14, 18+