After the success of Lost In The Dream, it was always going to be interesting to see which direction The War On Drugs would take to follow it up.

The last album was regarded as one of the best records of 2014, mixing deep and often gloomy themes with the occasional, upbeat tune as songs like ‘Red Eyes’ and ‘An Ocean Between The Waves’ in particular struck a chord with new and existing fans alike, leaving people to question if they would take that route or explore the dark paths they trod for the majority of the album even deeper.

Adam Granduciel has done neither of these things however, instead inviting the musical ensemble who make up his band in to record the album with him, making for a more rounded effort and leading to a more consistent record – albeit one that rarely hits the heights of the last album.

Rather than a criticism of the quality of the production and arrangements of the songs – both of which are very well put together – this points more to the type of album A Deeper Understanding is. This isn’t the kind of album those looking for a quick fix of catchy tunes will relish, and it is certainly one that is benefitted by listening to in one go rather than a song here and there.

That’s not to say there aren’t any toe-tapping tunes in there – songs like ‘Pain’, ‘Holding On’ and ‘Nothing To Find’ definitely have the potential for a sing-along or perhaps even having a little shuffle in – but it is certainly not the way this album is meant to be enjoyed.

In an age where the majority of music is consumed by Spotify playlists and YouTube videos, means that only the most dedicated experience it this way as the majority will dip their toes in every now and again or keep it on as easy-listening.

For this reason, one issue the album has is its length. Coming in at over an hour and hosting a number of lengthy songs (‘Thinking Of A Place’, for example, is over 11 minutes long) makes it all the more tempting to use A Deeper Understanding as background noise. While it would no doubt make for a pleasant, ambient album, the nature of its length and pace means it’s all too easy to miss out on things. There’s a lot going on at various times and sometimes it can be difficult to make out Granduciel’s lyrics among the fuzzy guitars or ever-present synth.

The other problem is that a number of songs sound a bit samey. There’s not a lot of variance between tracks, which gives it a homogenous feel; again, not so much of an issue when keeping it on in one go, but it’s definitely a quality that won’t appeal to everyone.

As mentioned above, however, A Deeper Understanding is very consistent and maintains a good quality throughout. There are no poor songs or jarring parts to be found, while there are some individual parts that come close to topping Lost In The Dream, such as the second half of ‘Thinking Of A Place’ or crashing guitar solo in ‘Strangest Thing’. Lyrically it’s all very similar, but there is the odd moment when Granducial’s emotion and vulnerability really comes through and shines.

Those looking for the catchy, immediately-gratifying will no doubt look elsewhere, but those willing to not only stick with the album but dig a little deeper will find plenty to enjoy.

★★★★

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