Having left off with 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, with only 2010’s Future Weather EP to tide fans over, The War on Drugs’ sophomore album is now released into the musical wild.  Slave Ambient is out today, Tuesday August 16, 2011, so get your paws on that shit.

Front man Adam Granduciel (the dude in the pic above) kicks off the album with his woozy Tom Petty-ish vocal drawl.  Catchy and calming, it’s showcased amongst gracefully layered guitars in “Best Night.”  The song takes its time.  Nothing here is rushed and I find myself instantly relating to the honest lyrics.  “Got the feeling that I can’t move without sliding, I’m a thousand miles behind with a million more to climb.  So it’s you I hope survives without fighting.”

The beginning of the album holds strong momentum with the steady drum and bass groove of “Brothers.”  You may find yourself tapping your feet and nodding your head and in the haze of grooving out, you may forget that you’re listening to The War on Drugs and not Bob Dylan.  But in the way that I love Dan Bern for his quirky and original songwriting, despite baring some vocal resemblance to Dylan—I love The War On Drugs.  Some slight similarities are there, but it doesn’t matter because it’s good.  The album continues to hit high notes with the harmonica accented jams, “I Was There,” “Baby Missiles” and the instrumental “Original Slave,” which also boasts a catchy shuffling beat and vibrating guitar tones.

The album dips into a few atmospheric jams, some instrumental, some not, that become a little too self-involved for my taste.  Parts of it drone on for longer than I think they need to and in the case of “Your Love is Calling My Name” it seems like a musical buildup that never ends and in turn my attention is lost at the four-minute mark.  Despite my grumbling, I listened closely to pick up on some of the intimate musical moments.  It paid off with the delicious slice of Americana pie that is “Come to the City,” one of my favorite songs on the album.  The guitar tones paint images of fields and faded lights.  Adam’s howl and heartfelt lyrics offer a sense of freedom and release.

As a whole the album is rich with a kaleidoscope of layered instrumentation.  Guitars and keys, in particular.  Philadelphia-based Granduciel brought multi-instrumentalists Dave Hartley and Robbie Bennett, as well as drummer Mike Zanghi on board to bring out the best of his special brand of folk-tinted experimental indie rock.  Somewhere between home recording with a tape machine and utilizing Jeff Ziegler’s Uniform Recording and Echo Mountain in Asheville, NC—this album reaches out to the brim of an expansive soundscape.  One that can barely be boxed into the genre title I have just chosen for it.  I find this album equally as good for rocking out on road trips or for easing into any self induced heavy post food/sex/work coma, just not quite fit for my daily shuffle rotation.

The War on Drugs have a tour stop in Los Angeles with a show at the Satellite on Saturday, Oct. 22. Get your tickets here!

Album Review by Emily Saex


Artist: The War On Drugs
Album: Slave Ambient
Record Label: Secretly Canadian
Release Date: August 16, 2011

  • Listen to The War on Drugs’ “Baby Missiles” here.
  • Listen to The War on Drugs’ “Come to the City” here.