Written during a period of “confusion, and unhappiness, and depression” for frontman Adam Granduciel, Lost in the Dream certainly seems like the product of solo, late night drives ("Come and ride away / It's easier to stick to the Earth / Surrounded by the night" from "Red Eyes" is a dead giveaway). Forlorn introspection is a theme throughout, as hinted at by the album's artwork -- a photo of Granduciel seated by a window, looking down at nothing in particular -- but despite this depressed, intrapersonal focus, most of the music within seems to beg to be let outside. Bedroom rock, this ain't.
Granduciel's self-production is phenomenal, seamlessly blending synths, drum machines, horns, live drums and a whole host of tasty guitar tones into a warm mix that feels surprisingly organic. Some of that surprise is due to Lost in the Dream's close resemblance to the most flashily synthetic parts of '80s rock. The album's sax lines border on yacht rock, the synths venture into "Age Of Consent" territory, the electronic beats are utilitarian and old-school, and Granduciel's voice spends most of the album hovering somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen timbres. Where Lost in the Dream offers an update on all of these retro hallmarks is in restraint. The cheesiest of the sax and synth lines are used very sparingly, the snare drums levels aren't nearly as bombastic as those on big '80s rock albums, and everything's EQ'd down into an almost blurry, cohesive haze. If it were possible to squint with your ears, this album could be called an Impressionist version of Born in the U.S.A..
Lost in the Dream finds The War on Drugs stepping out of the noisier, psychedelic curtains of 2011's Slave Ambient and finding a more subdued, elegant sound. It's out on March 18th via Secretly Canadian, and you can preorder it now on the record label's official website. Head over to The War on Drugs' Zumic artist page for more of their music, videos and news.