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The Tripwire: On The War On Drugs’ Contained Sprawl

The War On Drugs played an NPR World Café session last week. Watching it, I was blown away by the band and the sound they’ve grown into.

The session closes with “Arms Like Boulders,” possibly the greatest open road driving song of the modern era. Less ambient or guitar-heavy than much of their work, “Arms Like Boulders” sprawls without feeling untidy or busy. Boiled down, this is the most impressive thing about War on Drugs.

NPR called the band “an arena rock band that doesn’t play arenas yet.” In this age, that feels like something of a backhanded compliment. But it sonic terms, this proclamation seems apt. These tracks are incredibly dense but there's no clutter. Not even in their live set. Adam Granduciel’s voice gives the songs an apt whimsical vocals and the bands combining of multiple tapes into one track make the songs feel complete and still open-ended. “Your Love Is Calling My Name”, a gorgeous six-minute tour de force, highlights this sonic landscape, .

“Baby Missiles” is the poppiest anthem the band has made to date. Granduciel’s vocals are nearly racing the busy guitars, but there’s still room for a calm harmonica breakdown with light cooing. Few acts have pulled off that juxtaposition between big modern rock and classic Americana. Between them there's only a subtle line, one The War on Drugs seems dangerously near perfecting a mere two albums into their career.

The Tripwire: On The War On Drugs’ Contained Sprawl